Accepted 26th January, 2019.
Potato production provides a source of both food and cash income in the densely populated highlands of Ethiopia, playing an important role in improving food security and cash income of smallholder potato growers. However, potato farmers in Ethiopia face many constraints, including: lack of access to improved high yielding quality seed, seed tubers and soil with a high incidence of bacterial diseases and lack of agricultural extension support services.This study explores three questions. How well do farmers understand bacterial wilt and the danger it poses for potato production? How willing are farmers to be become involved in collective/community action to prevent bacterial wilt? How can farmers take action to improve their response to the condition – should they rely on local knowledge or on science-based recommendations. The thesis is part of a larger research programme entitled Developing sustainable seed potato production system for improved livelihoods in 2015. The programme is supported by Vita and Teasasc and is located in Chencha Woreda in the SNNPR region of Ethiopia. The thesis employs mixed method research; including farmer surveys, key informant interviews, field observations and focus group discussions. The research activity was conducted in two selected kebeles. The research objectives were: (i) To investigate farmers understanding of bacterial wilt (BW), (ii) Measure farmers’ willingness to engage in collective action and (iii) Devise best-fit technical information channels for acquiring and disseminating knowledge on bacterial wilt management. The study has shown that the communities are obviously cognizant regarding BW and BW ranks as the most important disease problem. Farmers concern with BW is understandable, considering that this disease indeed reduces potato yields and is a real threat to potato production, food security and farmers profit. However, a knowledge gap exists regarding the management of BW. In addition, there is insufficient information to permit pursuing the best management practices in potato production. Three groups are affected by those deficits: the overall community, the farming community and there is a particular issue between female and male farmers relating to their understanding of BW. The study found that lack of knowledge regarding cultural control practices that might limit the spread of BW, is a common feature. It also found that more than half of farmers studied have a weak knowledge. A most important finding is that almost all farmers are willing to engage in collective action to combat bacterial wilt. Survey results showed that female farmers and poorer farmers must be considered as a group that require special attention from extension services. Bothmale and female farmers need access to information, skills and tools to improve yields. However, the level of contact between farmers and extension agents was observed as being relatively low in general and especially low among female farmers. Results show that farmers’ preferences for learning about BW were identified as: peer to peer learning from fellow farmers; on-farm demonstration and farm visits, to observe improved agronomic practice. It was also found that Private organizations / non-state actors are important sources of information on BW. Churches, chiefs, community meetings, private agricultural companies, local FM radio, and on farm advisory services constitute a significant information source in some areas. The study concludes that combining technical innovations with initiatives involving collective action, would be necessary to lead to substantial farmer benefits. It further recommends that government and non-governmental organizations work together to support farmers, especially women to implement strategies to limit the spread of BW.
Keywords: Potato, Bacterial wilt, community collective action, participatory, Extension, Innovation, Chencha-Ethiopia, Vita, Teagasc.