Archive Three-year degree thesis Agroecology

Smallholder farmers’ perception of pest management and the agroecological approach on banana weevil, cosmopolites sordidus, in Mukono district, Uganda

Bananas, and the East African Highland Banana (EAHB) in particular, are an essential part of Uganda’s culture and economy. Unfortunately, the banana plant knows many pests, among which the banana weevil, Cosmopolites sordidus; a small and highly destructive insect. Most of Uganda’s working population is in some way involved in agriculture, and the agricultural sector is dominated by smallholders.

Research on banana weevil management is plentiful, yet the little bug is still wreaking havoc across the world’s banana growing regions. In other situations, the agricultural practice of agroecology has shown to be effective as pest control. In this research I aimed to combine agronomic knowledge on the banana weevil and agroecological pest prevention methods, with the perceptions and motivations of farmers. To understand the Ugandan small-scale farmers’ motivations and perception of banana weevil management and agroecology, I performed farm visits and qualitative interviews with ten farmers in the Mukono district, Uganda.

Their farms are highly diverse; they were able to identify 15 different crops, and 11 different EAHB cultivars. Their farming and pest management methods are largely in line with agroecology: the farmers employ a variety of techniques including intercropping, mulching, use of organic manure, use of organic pesticides, biological pest control, and their farms have a relatively high inter- and intraspecific crop diversity.

A few use synthetic pesticides, but most do not, out of fear for their own and their soil’s health. They mostly showed familiarity with and positivity towards agroecology. All but one confirmed that their farm is negatively affected by the weevil. Nonetheless, the situation seems to be relatively under control. This might be due to a combination of crop diversity and the application of various management techniques. All farmers have full ownership over their land, which could ease agroecological farming. At the same time, the situation is vulnerable; as one farmer put it: “These days if you relax, those weevils will not give you some more time. They won’t wait for you, they will just come immediately”. If for one reason or the other the farmer is unable to be consequential in their management, weevil populations could go through the roof.

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