CABI and the Cereal Growers Association (CGA) have been sharing information with farmers in Kenya on how to effectively and safely manage the continuing threat of the invasive fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda). This was achieved thanks to a development communication campaign that combined video sharing through a network of lead farmers and social media.
The initiative took place between November 2020 and February 2021 and reached over 14,355 smallholder farmers of whom 8,923 were female smallholder farmers from Busia, Siaya, Kakamega, Bomet, Meru, Makueni, Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia counties. These counties have an established CGA farmer network and have historically been among the leading maize producing areas in Kenya.
The reported upsurge of the fall armyworm in October 2020 across the eight counties posed a threat to expected maize yields. To prevent this, most of the farmers preferred to use chemical pesticides on their maize as the first defence. Further evidence showed that although chemicals have been widely used, their effectiveness is negated by poor application methods, thereby threatening both farmers’ health and the environment.
With the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020 and subsequent lockdown regulations, farmers in the eight counties faced new challenges. Those who had formerly received agricultural advice face-to-face could no longer do so. Additionally, the previous easy access by some farmers to extension agents and farmer groups, where knowledge on fall armyworm management was shared, became limited due to movement restrictions implemented to contain the pandemic.
To help mitigate the situation, a development communication campaign _ using a network of lead farmers and social media was conducted to enhance farmer awareness and knowledge on sustainable approaches in managing the fall armyworm.
A 10-minute farmer friendly and educative video containing information on how to identify, prevent and sustainably manage the fall armyworm was developed as part of the campaign. Additional information on cultural methods, use of biopesticides in the early infestation stages including applying chemical pesticides as a last resort was also explained in the video.
CGA shared the video through its network of lead farmers who are members of established smallholder farmer groups. Lead farmers are ideally placed to share information with peers, as they have access to technology in the form of smartphones. They are also recognised by other farmers as sources of knowledge.
Pest management experts trained the lead farmers on the information covered by the video to give them the skills and confidence to share this with others and answer any questions about it. Lead farmers then shared the video and knowledge with fellow farmers and were supported by extension agents, most of whom were also plant doctors (part of the CABI-led Plantwise programme). Over 500 Fall Armyworm Field Handbooks were also issued to lead farmers for use as reference material during the campaign.
The video provided practical, useable and actionable knowledge to meet the needs of smallholder farmers. To supplement and enhance the reach through the CGA network of lead farmers, Facebook was used to share the same video to defined audiences and farmer groups in Kenya.
Screen grab showing one of the videos on Facebook
The 10-minute video was divided into three short segments approximately 3 minutes each, to suit dissemination via social media over the campaign period.
The campaign on Facebook targeted men and women living in Kenya aged between 13 to 65 years who were interested in agronomy, farming, crop protection, integrated pest management, organic farming, maize and pesticide application. Job titles, such as farm manager, were also specified in the targeting. To widen the audience, paid advertising was used, with each of the three videos being shown between 5-7 days within the campaign period. Engagement metrics, such as video views, link clicks, comments and shares, were captured to enhance the reporting.
Insights from the campaign
The campaign reached over 14,355 smallholder farmers directly through the knowledge sharing sessions by lead farmers. Social media campaigns through Facebook reached 117,000 people, 32% of whom were women. Most of the audience reached was 24 – 35 years of age.
Initial evaluation from a post-campaign survey shows the combined use of the CGA network of lead farmers and social pre and media was a success. Findings indicate an improved awareness amongst smallholder farmers on the appropriate type of pesticides and time of application to manage the fall armyworm.
However, only two out of every ten farmers understood the importance of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as a sustainable means of managing the fall armyworm. This was a slight improvement from an initial major preference for sole chemical use in managing the pest. As a result, one key learning and recommendation from the campaign is the need to create farmer awareness around the use of biopesticides as a safer and sustainable alternative to chemical pesticides, and their role within an integrated fall armyworm management framework.
Find out more about the fall armyworm from the Fall Armyworm Portal
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