Farmer field schools

Farmer field schools center around a “living laboratory” where farmers are trained to identify insects and diseases and compare results on two subplots – one using conventional chemical pest control and the other using IPM. On the improved management plot, participants strive to improve ecosystem health by cutting pesticide use while increasing productivity through intensified management. Farmers experiment with a variety of techniques, such as weevil traps, different strains of potatoes, and targeted applications of lower toxicity pesticides.

In Ecuador’s Carchi province, a program supported by CIP used farmer field schools to drastically reduce high rates of pesticide poisoning. Continuous cropping of potato had produced not only high yields, but also highly favouable conditions for insects and fungal diseases, leading to massive applications of insecticides and fungicides.

As a result of pesticide exposure, CIP scientists say, 60% of people in the area showed reduced neuro-behavioral functions. IPM training enabled farmers to reduce agrochemical application costs – including fertilizer, pesticide, and labor costs – by an average of 75% with no effect on productivity. Follow-up studies showed that the reduced exposure to pesticides was associated with recovery of previously suppressed nervous system functions.