Common bean is the most important grain legume consumed in Uganda. Known as the “meat for the poor”, the crop is the most important source of protein to the Ugandan population providing about 45% of the total dietary protein. Despite its importance, its production has remained very low. Pests of common bean such as Ootheca spp, Ophiomia spp, Aphis fabae, Bemisia tabaci, among others are the most challenging factors responsible for low yields of common bean in Uganda. In an attempt to reduce the effect of pests and diseases, farmers use chemical insecticides. However, the use of chemical insecticides is associated with adverse effects to the environment such as killing of non-target organisms and offer health threats to the farmers. Additionally, the use of chemical insecticides is expensive and therefore results into low profits from bean farming. This is worsened by the fact that Ugandan farmers are resource poor farmers who lack enough capital to invest in the use of chemical insecticides despite their adverse effects. The use of botanical extracts to control bean pests in Uganda will provide an opportunity for the resource poor farmers to control bean pests and obtain high yields while maintain the quality of the environment. Farmers in Uganda lack knowledge of these substances mainly because they have not been promoted by researchers and agricultural extension agents. In neighboring countries like Tanzania, these botanicals have been found to control bean pests (for example, bean leaf beetles). Therefore, validating these botanicals in Uganda, and promoting their use through farmer training and advocacy will help bean farmers reduce on the use of chemical insecticides, produce food that is free form pesticide residues and hence safe for human consumption, reduce on the effect of chemicals in the environment, and maximize profits resulting from low costs of pest control.
Botanical extracts will be obtained from available plant species with insecticidal properties such as Azadirachta indica, Phytolacca dodecandra, Capsicum spp, among others. Additionally, urine from animals will be included. Formulations of such concoctions will be prepared and applied to control bean pests in a farmer participatory research with selected bean growers on their fields as model farmers. Farmers will learn how to prepare and apply these substances. Later on, community meetings will be held where we shall pass on the knowledge to the target communities using the model farmers. This will therefore build capacity of farmers to control bean pests using a few model farmers. The activities will be carried out for one year (two consecutive growing seasons) and by the end of this time, farmers will be equipped with the necessary skills to control bean pests using botanicals. For the beginning, the target shall be the Northern region of the country which is the most infested by bean pests. Subsequently, given the availability of funds, the project will be extended to other parts of the country. The skills and knowledge can be passed on from farmer to farmer even after the project has ended.
Chalres Halerimana, Uganda