News Release

New study reveals willingness of papaya farmers in Kenya to reduce pesticide use

A new study published in the CABI Agriculture and Bioscience journal has revealed a willingness of smallholder papaya farmers in Kenya to reduce their chemical pesticide use to fight the papaya mealybug (Paracoccus marginatus)

Peer-Reviewed Publication


Teacher and pawpaw farmer Wilfred Mutondi with his infested pawpaw fruits (Credit: CABI).

image: Teacher and pawpaw farmer Wilfred Mutondi with his infested pawpaw fruits (Credit: CABI). view more 

Credit: CABI

A new study published in the CABI Agriculture and Bioscience journal has revealed a willingness of smallholder papaya farmers in Kenya to reduce their chemical pesticide use to fight the papaya mealybug (Paracoccus marginatus).

Researchers from CABI surveyed 383 farming households in four counties in Kenya alongside key informant interviews with eight extension agents and thirty agro-dealers, and eight focus group discussions.

They found that in a desperate attempt to control invasive alien pests’ farmers often resort to the use of broad-spectrum insecticides even though biological control is a more sustainable method of pest management that is extremely suitable in the smallholder production context found in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA).

Kate Contstanine, Project Scientist at CABI and lead author of the study, said, “In SSA few attempts using biological control for arthropod pests have been successful, with one of the key reasons cited as poor involvement of farming communities and extension in the dissemination of information.

“As a transboundary problem, invasive species present a social dilemma since, for an optimal outcome to be achieved for all affected people, a collective management response is required.”

The scientists sought to determine smallholder farmers’ knowledge, attitudes and practices towards biological control; farmers’ willingness to reduce their chemical pesticide use; and levels of support for a classical biological control (CBC) programme for papaya mealybug in Kenya.

They also found that there were high levels of awareness of the negative impacts and risks associated with chemical pesticides on human health and the environment.

Farmers demonstrated some awareness of the concept of biological control but they lacked knowledge, experience and technical support from extension or agro-dealers. Reasons for not using biological control included inadequate awareness and concerns over efficacy and safety.

Ms Constatine added, “Farmers expressed high levels of interest and willingness to support a classical biological control programme.

“Importantly, most farmers were willing to reduce their chemical pesticide use to conserve the parasitoid biological control agent, Acerophagus papayae, and there were indications of the requirements for collective community action.

“Previously, poor attention has been paid to farmer participation, inclusion and social factors in biological control, which has resulted in limited success in developing countries.

“Both farmers and extension personnel highlighted the importance of engaging with the community at the beginning of any initiative to ensure community ownership as well as long-term sustainability.

“The next steps include targeted awareness-raising, capacity building and effective information dissemination.”

The scientists also say that their research demonstrates significant differences in farmer perceptions between counties and gender which are helpful in focussing resources going forward.

For instance, more men perceived biological control to be useful and necessary than women, suggesting a need to increase women’s awareness and understanding of biological control.


Notes to editors

Full paper reference

Kate L. Constantine, Fernadis Makale, Idah Mugambi, Harrison Rware, Duncan Chacha, Aylssa Lowry, Ivan Rwomushana and Frances Williams, ‘Smallholder farmers’ knowledge, attitudes and practices towards biological control of papaya mealybug in Kenya’ CABI Agriculture and Bioscience, 15 June 2023, DOI: 10.1186/s43170-023-00161-7

The paper can be viewed open access here:

About CABI Agriculture and Bioscience

CABI Agriculture and Bioscience (CABI A&B) publishes high quality, rigorously peer-reviewed multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary research focused on agriculture, food security, and the environment.

Global agriculture faces many challenges today. How can we produce more safe, nutritious food in the face of climate change? Can we balance greater efficiencies with the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect biodiversity?  Can we meet changing market demands and yet develop more equitable economies? Can agriculture provide a livelihood and opportunities for women and young people?

These problems require increasingly complex and urgent solutions from researchers and policymakers. That is why CABI A&B is committed to encouraging an inclusive culture of scientific discussion and rapid information sharing among researchers worldwide. We publish both large and incremental advances in science in both primary and multidisciplinary fields across the biosciences, agriculture, agronomy, microbiology, social sciences, and the environment.

CABI A&B is an open access journal, with rapid peer review, making findings immediately available to all readers worldwide. We believe it will help engender a clearer understanding of facts and findings, and help challenge assumptions.

CABI A&B is the official journal of CABI – an international, inter-governmental, not-for-profit organization that improves people’s lives worldwide by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment. The organization is governed by 49 Member Countries, many of which are low-income and highly dependent on agriculture to feed their population and generate income. CABI A&B’s supports the organization’s aim to help achieve 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals: (1) No Poverty; (2) Zero Hunger; (3) Quality Education; (5) Gender Equality; (12) Responsible Consumption and Production; (13) Climate Action; (15) Life on Land; and (17) Partnerships for the Goals. CABI A&B is integral to delivering on the organization’s mission, and any surplus derived from the journal is reinvested in its international development activities.


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