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Abstract

Cowpeas are a critical crop for food and income security for millions of people in Africa. Insect pests, however, are a major production constraint causing over 50% yield losses. Farmers indiscriminately apply expensive synthetic pesticides in spite of attendant health and environmental risks. Recognizing that current chemical control methods are costly and unsustainable for resource-poor farmers, an innovative integrated pest management strategy based on biocontrol agents is being explored for West Africa. Therefore, the objective of this study was to predict potential adoption of the innovative biocontrol strategy by determining important factors that explain farmers’ pest control decisions. To this end, we designed a choice experiment survey for 505 cowpea farmers in Benin. A conditional logit model was estimated. Survey findings indicate that farmers are aware of health hazards but persistently apply chemical pesticides out of necessity. Also, model results reveal that important factors driving pest control decisions include costs, labor, and potential yield losses. Finally, we show that social norms could be leveraged to enhance adoption of the biocontrol method. These findings have promising implications for on-going efforts to develop and disseminate sustainable biocontrol strategies that are eco-friendly and cost effective for smallholder farmers.

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