Small-scale farmer response to crop pests and threats in Nepal will be strengthened thanks to a partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development and Virginia Tech.

The new activity — Feed the Future Nepal Integrated Pest Management — prioritizes the transfer and adoption of integrated pest management (IPM) practices within Nepal’s agriculture sector, including among members of marginalized groups.

The three-year, nearly $1.4 million activity will be implemented by Virginia Tech’s Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management, in partnership with Nepal Agriculture Research Council and International Development Enterprises Nepal, two organizations working on the ground.  

A key anticipated result is increased employment and professional growth opportunities for youth through the business development of Tricho-compost, a naturally occurring material that boosts plant defense mechanisms against threats. The activity will also support strengthening pesticide regulations and will ensure that women, youth, and marginalized groups receive farmer training and agribusiness development related to IPM.

Pests and disease can cause up to 40 percent crop losses, which especially impacts small-scale farmers who own on average about one acre of land. With gender, caste, and ethnicity-based social exclusions widespread in the country, farmers often have limited access to improved technologies and increasingly rely on chemical pesticides, despite evidence of the negative impacts on human, animal, and environmental health.

“For agrarian countries like Nepal, pest infestation and subsequent production declines can have catastrophic impacts on farmers’ livelihoods and reduce economic growth,” said Adriana Hayes, USAID’s Nepal acting mission director. “This is why USAID designed this activity to empower Nepali farmers to effectively manage and reduce the impact of pest threats such as the devastating fall armyworm. The activity will capitalize on the government of Nepal and the Nepali private sector’s expertise and resources to institutionalize resilient and sustainable solutions to respond to future pest and disease outbreaks in the country.”

USAID partnered with the Virginia Tech team, now in its 26th year at the university, in part due to its more than decadelong tenure in the South Asian country. The team will maintain its objective of increasing food security in Nepal and implement sustainable pest management solutions for critical crops — such as maize, rice, lentil, and others — through close engagement with the government of Nepal and private companies.

“Productive, resilient, and prosperous growth should be within reach for every farmer around the globe,” said John Bowman, USAID agreement officer’s representative for the IPM Innovation Lab. “One of the best ways to achieve this in Nepal is by leveraging and building off of the established and emerging institutions already cost effectively facilitating that work. This also brings us closer to fostering a ‘journey to self-reliance’ in the country.”

Lalit Sah
Lalit Sah (right), a collaborator with International Development Enterprises Nepal, speaks with a farmer. Photo by Muni Muniappan

Management of the fall armyworm, an invasive pest that ravages maize and other crops throughout Asia and Africa, is also a focus area. The IPM Innovation Lab currently implements a biological control approach to manage the pest in East Africa that it will replicate in Nepal.

By connecting cooperatives, the private sector, rice mills, and other local groups in the country, the IPM Innovation Lab will disseminate natural enemies against the pest, an approach that is inexpensive, safe for the environment, and protects multiple crops including maize.

“The fall armyworm has already triggered billions of dollars of damage around the world, and we want to prevent it from wreaking more havoc for small-scale farmers,” said Muni Muniappan, director of the IPM Innovation Lab. “Releasing these particular natural enemies, which are both local to Africa and Asia, reduces the risk of introducing yet another exotic species that will cause harm.”

The IPM Innovation Lab is housed within Virginia Tech’s Center for International Research, Education, and Development, part of Outreach and International Affairs.

Written by Sara Hendery