Farmers’ perceptions of tree mortality, pests and pest management practices in agroforestry in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia
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- Sileshi, G.W., Kuntashula, E., Matakala, P. et al. Agroforest Syst (2008) 72: 87. doi:10.1007/s10457-007-9082-5
Pest management research within the context of agroforestry is in its infancy, and it is often difficult to say when a particular pest justifies investment in research to establish facts. Understanding the potentials and drawbacks of farmers’ indigenous ecological knowledge (ethnoecology) may form the basis for constructive collaboration between farmers, agroforestry scientists and extension staff. Therefore, the objectives of the study were to (1) assess farmers’ knowledge and perceptions of pests, (2) prioritize pest problems that limit tree planting and maize production based on farmers’ own criteria and (3) to identify farmers’ indigenous pest management practices for priority pests. Data were collected using community meetings, individual interviews and direct observation by the first author. The farmers involved in this study in eastern Zambia had over ten years of experience, while most of the farmers in Mozambique and parts of southern Malawi were new to agroforestry. Farmers perceived insects as the major causes of tree mortality, followed by drought, bush fires and browsing by livestock. Among the biological constraints to maize production, insects (particularly termites and stalk bores) and weeds (particularly Striga asiatica) were more important in farmers’ minds than crop diseases. Fundamentally, the farmers’ perception of the causes of tree mortality and crop pests agreed with researchers’ perceptions and the literature. Both termite and witch weed problems were associated with low soil quality, and farmers use various indigenous control practices to control these pests. Some farmers did not know the causes of tree mortality, and hence do not take action. Farmer’s perception of tree mortality was found to be a function of operator-specific variables such as sex, level of education and years of experience with tree species.