This is the second report in a feature series on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) as they apply to Africa. GAP is a product of many institutions involved with agricultural interests, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) European supermarket chains and many African governments. GAP is used to ensure the quality of farm products, increase their value and expand markets for farmers. Voice of America's Cole Mallard reports.
A UN expert in pest control says managing agricultural pests is a top priority. Souleymane Nacro, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s national coordinator of integrated pest management for Burkina Faso, says alternatives to the more expensive chemical pesticides are affordable and available and that “chemical pesticides are not the only solution to the pest problem.”
He says some of the natural, or botanical, pesticides include Neem tree leaves -- or seeds, the onion, and tobacco. He says the worst pests are endemic and cause severe crop losses, such as the cotton bulb worm, which, when it attacks, destroys the plant. Sucking insect pests, such as the white fly, spread viruses and can be responsible for a total crop loss.
NO “GAP” IN UNAUTHORIZED USE
Nacro says chemical pesticides are largely used on commercial crops like cotton, cocoa, and coffee and are not needed by the small-scale farmer. He says although some chemical pesticides are available from small suppliers, the pesticides are also sold in remote villages by unqualified people, “leading, in most cases to the misuse of the products and to accidents.”
Nacro says GAP promotes environmentally friendly, economically affordable and socially acceptable solutions to pest management. He says these include good land control, “early or synchronized planting,” soil fertilization through the proper use of organic manure, the planting of cover crops, crop rotation, the use of “bio [botanical] pesticides” and biological control through conservation of the natural enemies of these pests.
Nacro says the rural poor can not afford chemical pesticides but they can afford the alternatives being promoted by GAP. He says, “These are very simple tactics that use, in most cases, local natural resources.”Nacro says the Farmers Field School is a very effective extension tool that uses a learning-by-doing process designed to empower farmers.