, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 477-489
Date: 08 Nov 2006

Evolution of agricultural extension and information dissemination in Peru: An historical perspective focusing on potato-related pest control

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Multiplicity and continual change characterize the Peruvian agricultural knowledge and information system (AKIS), reflecting changes in the agricultural sector as a whole. The evolution of these changes can be traced back to the pre-Columbian era when a relatively stable and well-organized system based on indigenous knowledge prevailed. During colonial (1532–1821) and early Republican times (beginning 1821) several changes affecting the agricultural sector contributed to a weakening of indigenous knowledge systems. During the 20th century extension services provided by the government and a variety of private organizations began to play an important role in the dissemination of information, albeit in an erratic way. Since the 1970s the system increased in complexity with the emergence of non-governmental institutions. Today government participation is limited and there is a more important participation by a number of NGOs and private organizations. This diversity of actors using different approaches has generated disarray in the information system owing to the lack of coherent policies to guide the interaction among actors. This paper uses the case of potato pest control-related information to illustrate changes in local knowledge systems. It differentiates pest control based on indigenous knowledge, chemical control, and integrated pest management (IPM) and explains how changes in the system have influenced the use of these three types of information in AKIS. Currently, the coexistence of different types of potato pest control information promoted and used by diverse and usually unconnected sets of organizations and individuals presents a challenge and requires inter-institutional action guided by clear policies to promote sustainable agriculture.

Oscar Ortiz is an agronomist who specializes in agricultural extension, knowledge systems, and participatory research. He holds an MSc degree in crop production and agricultural extension from the La Molina National Agrarian University of Peru and a PhD from the Agricultural Extension and Rural Development Department at the University of Reading, UK. He has worked for the National Agricultural Research Institute and Nestle Company in Peru and is currently Division Leader for Integrated Crop Management at the International Potato Center (CIP) in Lima. Since 2001 he has been a visiting lecturer at the Graduate School of the La Molina National Agrarian University of Peru. He is a member of the Latin American Potato Association and the International Society for Horticultural Science.