Encouraging things we learned from our testing phase (Guatemala):
1. Farmers are really interested in this (Instead of meeting with 2-3 farmer leaders, as expected, they invited the entire village! Had to improvise a speech really quickly...)
2. There are so many local initiatives to control pests. The farmers were very happy to show us lots of plants and other technologies they are currently developing to control their pests! Many of the farmers there have been unable to control pests over the past seasons, and are very interested in new ideas.
Things that we thought could go wrong:
1. Farmers might think we're a waste of time. (Our first try in the field allayed that fear!)
2. Weather. The first answer to the question "What attacks your crops?" was "What crop?" (The recent drought there had destroyed 80% of the harvest.) Of course, we can't stop droughts (we wish)! But while we concentrate on farmer networks for pest management technologies, there is nothing to keep farmers from using the networks we create to spread other technologies, too (like drought-resistant plants and tricks). Also, pest management is most crucial during hard times (to save the bit that is left).
(Photo: Farmer showing me an assassin bug (natural predator) on her farm in Chiquimula, Guatemala.)