Identification and documentation of ethnobiological methods used by rural farmers to control stalk borers on maize in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.

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University of Fort Hare


Maize contributes substantially to food security in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. It is a staple food to many of the province’s rural and urban inhabitants. Insect pests are one of the factors that hamper its productivity and as a result, deprive farmers of good yields. The adverse effects of insecticides and the high cost associated with them and the cost of transgenic seeds are some of the challenges faced by small-scale farmers in rural areas. Alternative control methods which include the use of indigenous techniques to control pests are now sought. A study to identify and document ethnobiological means used by rural farmers to manage insect pests of maize was conducted in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape Province. A total of 217 participants were interviewed on the matter, using semi-structured but detailed questionnaires. Rural farmers due to their linkage to agriculture activities and the fact that they are considered as custodians of agricultural indigenous knowledge were selected as respondents. Only maize producing and IsiXhosa speaking people were chosen to contribute. Main focus was on the demography of respondents, crop production activities and insect pest control. Pretesting of the questionnaire in order to assess the appropriateness of questions and comprehension by both farmers and enumerators was done. Data was analysed using descriptive statistics. Fifty five percent (55 %) of the respondents were females and the highest number of participants was from the Chris Hani District Municipality. Majority of the people were unemployed or pensioners. Most had only attended primary school and the mean age was 59 years. Apart from maize, respondents were cultivating other crops such as cabbage, Swiss chard, potatoes etc. Stalk borers followed by cutworms were the main pests of maize in these areas. Respondents used mainly insecticides, followed by alternative substances, which also included cultural control methods such as planting date manipulation. Few respondents used iv plants as control agents for insect pests. Some people did not control pests even though they were a problem in their fields. The most used plant was Chenopodium ambrosiodes L, while the most used substance was Madubula (a detergent). The most used insecticide was carbaryl from the carbamite family. Respondents listed different preparation techniques for all the control methods mentioned. These techniques revealed different times of preparation, quantities of ingredients, amounts applied on plants, modes of application and intervals of application. Rural farmers in the study areas used different atypical methods which may play a significant role in pest management today. Some of the products may have a positive influence on agriculture, while some are dangerous to humans and environmental health. Further research which will investigate their potential use in pest control needs to be done.