Pests and Donors in Mali, 1985–90

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  • Pests and


    Donors in Mali, 1985 - 90

    Between 1985 and 1988 large-scale spray campaigns were carried out against migratory crop pests in the Sahel. The Malian government and its donors subsequently adopted this emergency response to a natural disaster as a long-term strategy for crop protection in Sahelian Mali. This is financially unsustainable, probably economically wasteful and stunts the development of other plant protection strategies. A similar process has occurred in Burkina Faso, Niger and Sinigal. Donors should therefore exercise critical, collective control over the release of pesticide aid and should subject it to economic evaluation.

    Development donors intend that the projects they finance should be financially sustainable; their benefit should endure after the withdrawal of their subsidy. Projects are, moreover, intended to be economically viable; their value to the beneficiaries should exceed their cost to the donor by a margin representing the oppor- tunity cost of capital. If rapid intervention is required to alleviate a natural or man- made disaster, however, the criteria of financial sustainabililty and economic viability are suspended. This is an emergency, by definition short-term, so the calculus of financial sustainability is irrelevant. Neither can the human suffering be contained by economic cost-benefit analysis.

    Pests are counted among the principal constraints upon agricultural production in the western Sahel (Deuson and Day, 1990). Between 1985 and 1990 the response to a pest emergency was extended to chronic pest problems. In this article I describe how it happened in Mali and refer to similar developments in Burkina Faso, Niger and

    SCnbgal. It is of interest as a study in institutional behaviour and as a criticism of the exclusion of economics (TAMS, 1989) from the planning of pest control projects in the Sahel.


    It is useful to divide pest attacks into two categories: private and public. Whether a pest is defined as private or public depends solely upon whether villagers could, in principle, control it or not. In brief, the distinguishing feature of private pests is that they are difficult to control away from the crop; once a public pest is in the crop it is too late for control.

    The desert locust (Schistocercu greguriu) and the migratory locust (Locusfu migrutoriu) are prime examples of a public pest. The recommended control strategy is to locate and spray their breeding zones in deserts and marshes respectively; by the time adult swarms are attacking crops, control is much


  • 208 A . R . Kremer

    more difficult (Popov, 1988; Rowley, 1989; Skaf, 1988). The grasshopper Oedaleus senegalensis can sometimes be equally evasive, forming swarms which move north and south across the Sahel with the inter- tropical convergence zone (ITCZ), and breed as they go (Popov, 1988, Cheke, 1990). Farmers can kill hatchlings with pesticide dust, but control of winged adults has been based on national campaigns with vehicle- and aircraft-mounted sprayers. It has also been suggested that control should be planned by means of satellite images and computer models of pest populations (Launois and Lecoq, 1990). The weaver bird (Quelea quelea) and the glossy starling (Passer luteus) are greatly feared by rice-farmers, sorghum-growers and communities near the river Niger. These constitute a public pest attack, because control by the destruction of nesting colonies takes place many kilometres from feeding grounds.

    Because the coordination of many donors against many swarms in several countries is the key to campaigns against all these public pests, a special role in them is reserved for the FA0 (Brader, 1988). Wrathall (1988) makes the telling observa- tion that the sudden and spectacular appearance of locust and 0. senegalensis swarms is more attractive to news reporters than the lingering, slow, dull destruction wrought by other pests. As the FA0 high command coordinates an international cam- paign against a visible enemy, the press draws instinctively upon the language of the war correspondent (see for example Walsh, 1988; Lorelle, 1989a and Lorelle, 1989b).

    Other grasshopper species, however, are private pests, amenable to treatment by farmers. Hieroglyphus duganensis, Kraussaria angulifera, Kraussella aniabile, Cataloipus cymbiferus and Diabolocatantops axillaris tend to move short distances into arable fields when the surrounding bush begins to dry out. The millet head-miner (Heliocheilus albipunctella, previously known as Raghuva

    albipunctella) and stem-borer (Coniesta ignefusalis, previously known as Acigona ignefusulis) caterpillars can similarly only be controlled in the field itself (Nwanze, 1985 and Hughes and Rhind, 1988). A third category of major private pests of millet contains the beetles: Pachnoda interrupta, Psdydolytta spp. and Rhinyptia infuscata. No formal research on their movements has been undertaken, but farmers report that they eat where they are born. Weeds and plant diseases such as mildew and smut are clearly suited to in-field control.

    Particular species are labelled above as private or public pests, but these labels could switch, just as Oedaleus senegalensis takes wing upon reaching adulthood and normally sedentary grasshoppers have been observed moving up to 500km downwind per night (Reynolds and Riley, 1988). It is furthermore possible that collective action at village level may increase the effectiveness of private pest control. Gahukars (1984) recommendation that farmers should destroy stem-borer pupae by burning stalks after the harvest would have to be followed by a whole village for each farmer to receive the benefit.


    Between 1985 and 1987 the public pests Schistocerca gregariu and Oeduleus senegalensis dominated the scene. In 1985 CIRADs (Centre de Cooperation Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Dbvelop- pement) biomodel of Oedaleus senegalensis was predicting heavy swarms for 1986. The FA0 responded by coordinating the pre- paration of a massive campaign using aircraft- and vehicle-mounted insecticide sprayers. The campaigns total cost was US$40 million, of which US$8.5 million went to Mali (FAO, 1986b). In total, 1.1 million litres of insecticide were applied. The campaign was deemed a success (Walsh, 1986b), and preparations began for 1987, when 1.3 million hectares were


  • Pests and Donors in Mali, 1985-90 209

    treated, of which 76 per cent were sprayed from the air. TAMS (1989) described the spraying of 1987 to be an overabundant and uncoordinated response to a false alarm, and that its economic or ecological implications had not been considered.

    The desert locust made an appearance in 1986 (FAO, 1986a). There was a small trans-Saharan treatment campaign in 1987, but weather conditions were unfavourable to the locust (Walsh, 1988). In response to dire warnings (Walsh, 1986a and Pedgley, 1987) of impending locust swarms, the FA0 prepared a major spray campaign for 1988 and 1989. This regional operation was to cost US$240 million, of which US$120 million was spent on pesticides (Hanley, 1989). It turned out, however, that a combination of east winds, low tempera- tures and drought had reduced locust populations to unimportance. Only 20 per cent of the reduction was estimated to have resulted from human intervention (Launois, 1989). Mali had requested and received aid from the African Development Bank (AfDB) and other donors for a 1988 anti-locust campaign. When it was discovered that the locust problem was insignificant, the national plant protection service turned the pesticides against other field pests and placed the AfDBs financial aid in reserve. The FAO, noting that the aid had been disbursed despite the absence of locusts, declared the Malian campaign crowned with success (FAO, 1989).

    The Government of Mali, with funding from a major multilateral donor, created a national plant protection service, the Service de Protection des VCgetaux (SPV) in 1987. The project document, drawn up by entomologists and plant protection experts, declared that the SPV should be responsible for plant protection in all its aspects. Apart from a reference to the USW,OOO per annum to be paid by the Malian government as salaries and the US$7,000 per annum to be paid for office costs and building maintenance, however,

    the project document said nothing on the funding of recurrent costs. It recommended that third-party donors provide US$2 million for experts, consultants, training and research and it envisaged the training of 200,000 villagers in 1,000 villages in the use of pest control products and equip- ment, but did not s p e c 9 how this material would be financed.

    The training of villagers in insecticide use followed a pattern already established in Niger. Ten young men from a village would be grouped into a plant protection brigade (brigade phytosanitaire) and receive training in the handling and application of insecticide dust and ultra-low volume (ULV) liquid insecticides. With bilateral and multilateral funding, 37 such brigades were formed in 1988,246 in 1989 and over 400 in 1990. Meanwhile, SPV field agents were under pressure to provide free pesticides to villagers without brigades. Many therefore created unofficial or temporary brigades. A study of one SPV base in north western Mali found that official brigades received 45 per cent of the insecticide dust and 58 per cent of the ULV formulation delivered free to farmers. Malian brigades, official and unofficial, treated 200,000-250,000 ha in 1990, an area roughly equal to that covered by vehicle- and aircraft-mounted sprayers.

    By 1988, the t