Participatory diagnostic farmer field fora (FFF) were conducted at two communities, Savelugu and Bukpomo, in northern Ghana to build the capacity of farmers on integrated pest management in cowpea production. The FFF involved a season-long comparative evaluation of farmers’ practices (FP) and integrated pest management (IPM). Farmers’ practices relied wholly on calendar insecticide sprays while IPM plots employed proven agronomic practices and treatment with neem (Azadirachta indica A. Juss) extract for insect pest control. Results showed that insect pest densities (Flower thrips, Megalurothrips sjostedti Trybom and pod-sucking bugs’ for example, Clavigralla tomentosicollis Stal.) and percent damaged pods as well as grain yield were similar in FP and IPM plots at both Savelugu and Bukpomo. Partial budget analysis showed positive returns to investment in IPM and a near loss in FP. Post training ballot box test showed that 80% of the farmer participants across locations showed improved knowledge and skills in IPM after the training compared with about 30% before the training. An ancillary study to the FFF was conducted to expose the farmers to different cowpea genotypes in a participatory variety selection trial. Results showed that some of the genotypes selected by farmers as their most preferred genotypes at the vegetative stage were also selected at the podding stage but there were no significant correlations between these farmer preferences and yield. These findings are discussed in the context of sustainable cowpea production through farmer empowerment and involvement in technology generation and dissemination.
Key words: Farmer field fora, participatory variety selection, cowpea, Azadirachta indica.
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