Protecting the environment
Farmers often regard all insects in their fields as pests that need to be controlled with insecticides. The reality is that a large proportion of these insects are beneficial to the farmer, preying on pests and helping to control their numbers. Even insects that are deemed to be pests often only cause damage when found in large numbers.
Over ten years ago, PAN UK began working with Integrated Pest Management (IPM) expert, Robert Mensah, of the Australian Cotton Research Institute, to develop an alternative pest control tool for African smallholder cotton farmers. The result is a yeast and sugar-based food spray. The food spray is made using cheap and locally available ingredients and enhances the populations of beneficial insects, ‘farmers friends’, in cotton fields. Working with PAN UK and OBEPAB, Robert set up experimental trials in Benin to test the effectiveness of the food spray and to teach the Beninese farmers the correct application techniques. Farmers began achieving higher yields and incomes. Farmer Field Schools were set up to teach farmers how to make and use the food spray, as well as other IPM techniques.
In addition, farmers are given training in soil conservation techniques and use organic manures, composts and oil palm cake to improve soil structure and fertility.
In this way, farmers are able to work with nature to keep pest levels low, improve the fertility of their soils and increase the quality of their water. According to Simon Ferrigno, a specialist consultant on Sustainable & Organic Farm Systems, OBEPAB has the ‘best extension and farmer support services in Africa.’