Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 425–445 | Cite as

Caught off guard: folk knowledge proves deficient when addressing invasive pests in Asian cassava systems

  • Bhawana Upadhyay
  • Dharani D. Burra
  • Than Thi Nguyen
  • Kris A. G. WyckhuysEmail author


Farmers’ knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs are of paramount importance in shaping the on-farm adoption and diffusion of integrated pest management (IPM). In particular, for invasive pests, this (gendered) knowledge base can dictate how fast and effective farmers respond to emerging threats. In this study, we employ qualitative and quantitative methods to assess agro-ecological knowledge and pest management behavior of small-scale cassava growers in rural Vietnam and Laos, when faced with two new biotic threats, i.e., the invasive cassava mealybug Phenacoccus manihoti and cassava witches broom disease. Despite their pronounced impact on crop yields, farmers overall had limited knowledge of recent invaders and regularly ascribed their appearance to “climate change". Growers were largely unaware of preventative tactics for pest control, and resorted to curative measures (e.g., unguided pesticide sprays) at the P. manihoti invasion front. Farmers’ attitudes toward invasive pests were highly context- and locality-dependent, and knowledge scores differed between households positioned along a gender continuum. Though women assumed a minor role in IPM decision-making and possessed comparatively deficient knowledge, they favored agro-ecological approaches and took on key tasks in the selection of propagation material. Gender roles in cassava crop protection are equally context-dependent, yet women may be well-positioned to promote IPM practices such as the use of disease-free planting material. Future extension should thus pay attention to (a) strengthening (women) farmers’ knowledge base, to empower them as change agents and drive IPM adoption, and (b) transferring local innovations between sites, eventually through visual educational aids. Given the increasing importance of invasive pests in many developing countries, our work emphasizes how adult education and (adaptive) co-learning should become core components of mitigation programs.


Biological control Invasive species Diffusion of innovations Knowledge transfer Learning Folk knowledge Sustainable intensification 



This research was supported by an EU-IFAD grant executed by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture CIAT (CIAT-EGC-60-1000004285) and further support was extended through the global, CGIAR-wide Research Program (CRP) on Roots, Tubers and Banana (RTB). In Vietnam, survey work was facilitated through national, provincial and district-level offices of the Plant Protection Department, PPD (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, MARD). We are grateful to Mr. Ngo Tien Dung and Ms. Hong Hanh for seamless facilitation of field activities. We thank Mr. Lao Thao for crucial logistical support in Laos, and are equally thankful to Ms. Lan Ngoc Le and Lisa Anderberg for their support in undertaking field work in Vietnam and Laos, respectively. Finally, we are grateful to all participant farmers for their helpful cooperation in personal interviews or focal-group discussions.


This study was conducted as part of an EC-funded, IFAD-managed, CIAT-executed program (CIAT-EGC-60-1000004285), while additional funding was provided through the CGIAR-wide Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Banana (CRP-RTB).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

Approval for farmer surveys in both Laos and Vietnam was obtained from CIAT’s institutional ethical committee.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Banana (CRP-RTB)International Potato Center CIPLimaPeru
  2. 2.Decision and Policy Analysis GroupInternational Center for Tropical Agriculture CIATHanoiVietnam
  3. 3.CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)International Center for Tropical Agriculture CIATHanoiVietnam
  4. 4.CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Banana (CRP-RTB)International Center for Tropical Agriculture CIATHanoiVietnam
  5. 5.International Joint Research Laboratory on Ecological Pest ManagementFuzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  6. 6.University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  7. 7.Institute of Plant ProtectionChinese Academy of Agricultural SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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