In order to feed a rapidly-growing population sustainably amid growing pressure from a changing climate, agricultural producers in Southeast Asia will need to build resilience by embracing landscape approaches and adopting climate-smart practices. Their success depends not only on the potential impact of ecosystem services, but also on willingness of farmers to adopt these practices.
In Cambodia, a new project led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in conjunction with the Society for Community Development in Cambodia (SOFDEC), aims to link ecosystem service valuations (field measurement of natural pest control by predator insects) with farmer willingness to maintain insect habitat (social experiments using scenario modeling) in order to identify the landscapes with the greatest potential for adopting natural pest control procedures. By measuring the ecosystem service potential that beneficial insects can provide in terms of crop productivity and cost savings in chemical pesticide purchases, as well as the willingness of farmers to promote their habitat, the project will identify where natural pest enemies can replace heavy pesticide spraying.
SOFDEC and IFPRI researchers have focused their efforts on insect collection, damage assessment in the field, and rice yield assessment. Each of these data collection and modeling techniques is studied as a complement to improving ecosystems and best practices in Siem Reap province.
Most pesticides available on the market are from Thailand or Vietnam and not translated into Khmer script. Moreover, what is sold to farmers is usually a cocktail of different pesticides with insufficient direction on proper use. This results in frequent pesticide poisonings of farmers.
Given this danger, the promotion of healthy insect ecosystems on cropland can reduce the outbreak of secondary pests and enhance long-term agricultural sustainability. Beyond the immediate drop in pesticide poisonings, reduced spraying further advances both public and water system health by decreasing chemical loading to aquatic habitats and drinking water sources. Together, these boosts to insect and aquatic system resilience reduce risks and uncertainties associated with livelihoods in rain-fed landscapes and their broader hydrologic systems over the long term.