Monday, 16 June 2008

Training Integrated Pest Management, Wageningen

Ever bought spinache from a Dutch vegetable auction? Well - I did! For the last two weeks I was facilitating a course on Integrated Pest Management, focusing on policies and institutional innovations. The course was held in Wageningen and attended by 24 participants from 12 different developing countries. I conducted the course together with my colleague Huub Stoetzer, who is a specialist in Food Safety and integrated pest management. This was crucial, since I hardly know anything from this topic. My input was therefore much more on the general issues of Multi-stakeholder processes, participation and policy development. This is an equally important part of integrated pest management, since we are dealing with a complex issue: trying to reduce the use of damaging pesticides. A whole range of stakeholders come to play: government, farmers/growers, input suppliers, chemical industry, consumers, supermarkets, researchers, extensionists etc.

The part of the course I co-facilitated followed two weeks of more technical focus on food safety and pesticides. Now we focused more on the policy processes and the social change needed to implement integrated pest management policies in multi-stakeholder situations. The course included 4-day field work to a horticulture area in Limburg province in the south of the Netherlands. Here the participants were commissioned to assess the implementation of Dutch integrated pest management policies and the participation of different stakeholders. We visited one of the largers cooperative greeneries auction in the Netherlands, an applied research station, input suppliers, the local bank, an agricultural college, private extensionists and many farmers and growers in the area. It was a great trip, both for the participants and myself.

With one group I visited one of the largest vegetable growers in the Netherlands, who grows and sells over 36 million heads of iceberg lettuce per year. Apart from the sheer size of it, it was interesting to see how growers have found a way to meet the policy recuirements and consumer (supermarkets) needs to reduce the use of pesticides through intensive farming methods. Nonetheless, the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers is enormous. On the other hand we also had visits to organic farmers who take the lower yield for granted, knowing that the prices for organic vegetables is higher, thus cushioning the lower produce. However, the market for organic products is generally seen as a 'niche', rather than mainstream. Bearing in mind that though consumers care more and more about safe an healthy food and a cleaner environment, they are not prepared to pay a higher price for it. Therefore growers need to be innovative to both meet the increasingly more difficult requirements on the use of pesticides and be competitive in the globalising market. The situation in the Netherlands is significantly different from many developing countries in terms of level of technology a resources. Nevertheless there were many things to learn from for the participants, especially on how influence on policy development takes place and how stakeholders are involved in implementation of policies.

The group had an engaging course which they appreciated very much. For me it was both educational and satisfying to work in a new content area with a colleague, seeing the processes I am so familiar with easily being applied.
The participants have now left again for their respective countries with their head full of new knowledge and impressions, their bags full of tools and tricks. Let's hope they will implement their ambitious action plans they made at the end of the course...

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