Sustainable management of fall armyworm in smallholder farming: The role of a multi-channel information campaign in Rwanda
Published: August, 2022
In recent years, fall armyworm (FAW), Spodoptera frugiperda, has emerged as one of the most serious invasive species in many countries across Africa, Asia and Oceania. The pest is causing extensive damage to maize production and the intensification of pesticide use. In this paper, we examined the effectiveness of three mass-extension channels (plant health rallies, radio drama and SMS) in enhancing farmers’ knowledge and management of FAW and in increasing maize productivity. Applying matching techniques to data from 720 smallholder farmers and 1077 maize plots in Eastern Rwanda, we found that exposure to the information channels is significantly associated with increased knowledge outcomes, including knowledge of the correct identification of FAW and the use of cultural practices as the first resort to pest management. Moreover, the information channels showed positive effects on the adoption of environmentally friendly management practices. Generally, the treatment effects are larger for households exposed to multiple (especially all) channels, indicating complementary effects of the channels. We also found suggestive evidence that the information channels are associated with maize yield increases ranging from 10% to 34%, depending on the channel. Overall, the results imply that multi-channel information campaigns can be effective in enhancing farmers’ knowledge on how to identify and sustainably manage the FAW pest. Our findings also suggest that while there is a growing popularity in the use of digital extension approaches to deliver timely information to farmers in a cost-effective manner, much greater gains can be achieved if they are combined with other low-cost face-to-face extension methods, such as plant health rallies.