Organic farming does not require synthetic pesticides. There are several ways to control parasites.
One option for reducing insects on a field is to set up a Malaise trap. It consists of nets that are installed in a tent-like structure. The insects that fly in the trap are guided – by light, for example – into a pot filled with alcohol, where they die. The method was invented by the Swedish scientist René Malaise at the beginning of the 20th century. In Malawi, the civil society organization Soil, Food and Healthy Community (SFHC) is teaching farmers how to apply this method. This is not easy, as the effectiveness depends on setting the trap in the right place and in the right way. The great advantage is that these traps have no impact beyond the relevant field.
In addition, with the support of Norwegian and Canadian experts, SFHC has trained Malawian farmers to manufacture their own organic pesticides. These pesticides are not as toxic as high-tech chemicals, and they can be applied in a targeted manner. A big advantage is that they break down naturally, whereas synthetic pesticides usually have persistent components that are harmful to the environment in the long run. A related advantage is that foods produced with organic pesticides are normally not contaminated with toxic particles.
From a global perspective, moreover, it is important to reduce the use of synthetic pesticides. This is a requirement for the prudent management of chemicals (see Hans-Christian Stolzenberg in the Focus section of the D + C / E + Z e-Paper 2021/03). A further intensification of the world economy would lead to disaster.
As a result, SFHC also encourages the use of local manure and crop residues to fertilize the fields rather than using industrially produced fertilizers. Both biological approaches – concerning pest control and fertilization – help protect the local ecosystem and, at the same time, increase yields.
Rabson Kondowe is a journalist based in Blantyre, Malawi. He is interested in social development, health and business related stories.