Hainan University seminar participants. Photo credit: Zeng-Rong Zhu (Zhejiang University)
Project partners organized a seminar on biodiversity, ecosystem services and farmer decision making in Hainan University on 19-22 July 2010. Opening the seminar, Dr. K.L. Heong presented an overview of the concepts of biodiversity and ecosystems services and their role in reducing vulnerability to pest attacks. “To stop planthopper outbreaks, there is a need for ecological tools at the landscape level or eco-agriculture and changes in policies, institutional structures and concepts,” Dr. Heong said.
Dr. M. Escalada discussed concepts in farmer decision making and presented new approaches in scaling up ecological engineering to rural communities such as media campaigns and entertainment education. “To scale up communication of science to rural communities, we need to simplify scientific information to facilitate its use in the rural areas and build quality partnerships with stakeholders,” Dr. Escalada stressed.
Drs. Escalada, Yuan and Heong after the seminar. Photo credit: Zeng-Rong Zhu (ZU)
The seminar, organized by Dr. Qianhua Yuan, Associate Dean and Director of the College of Agriculture and the Rice Research Institute of Hainan University, was attended by project partners from the College of Agriculture and social science faculty and students from the Economics & Management College. Dr. Zeng-Rong Zhu, associate professor at Zhejiang University, was interpreter and facilitated the seminar. After the seminar, two focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted with 18 rice farmers in two villages – Hongwei Village in Hongqi Town and Changpo Village in Lingsui County.
A: Changpo village, B: Hongwei village
The two villages were a study in contrast as far as rice production and crop ecosystem were concerned. In Hongwei village, rice growing was part of a highly diverse cropping system where farmers grew plantation crops like rubber, banana and coconut besides rice. Two to three rice crops were grown each year on small parcels of about 2 to 3 mu (0.13 ha) using Zayou 125 and Boyou 125 (BoA/R125), hybrid rice varieties sold by seed companies. Rice was grown mainly for home consumption. Near the rice paddy, farmers grew sweet potato, oriental melon, peanuts, and a mix of vegetables including long bean, bitter gourd, eggplant, and hot pepper. On the rice bunds, different species of weeds sprouted which farmers cut manually or spray with herbicides during land preparation.
Focus group discussion in Hongwei village, Photo credit: Qianhua Yuan (Hainan University)
In Hongwei village, farmers did not know the name of the insect pest which caused the most serious damage to their rice crop last season 2010. They described it as black and small insects on the rice leaves which would fall into the water when it is raining. Other farmers thought it was the rice leaffolder. However, farmers could not estimate the yield loss due to this pest attack which would usually occur around June to July. About 15 DAT, farmers sprayed insecticides to control thrips.
FGD in Changpo village, Lingshui County, Hainan
Changpo farmers believed that “the more pesticides used, the less pests”. They also thought that all insects are harmful and even spiders which eat insect pests can be harmful when their spider webs cast nets on the rice leaves.
Dr. Ducheng Cai (Hainan University) and Dr. K.L Heong hanging out with a rice farmer in Hongwei village.
The focus groups revealed a strong reliance on the use of pesticides and that insecticide application was equated to no insect pest. (For details, read: FGD report).