Monina Escalada, Visayas State University, Baybay, Leyte, Philippines,
Manit Luecha, former Director, Chainat Rice Seed Center, Chainat, Thailand
K.L. Heong, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines
On June 3, 2011, the Rice Department of Thailand in collaboration with the Thai Agro Business Association (TABA) and IRRI launched a campaign to “stop the use of abamectin and cypermethrin” in rice. This was an immediate response to reduce the persistent planthopper outbreaks occurring in Central Thailand. Based on IRRI research, these two insecticides with extremely high toxicities to bees and hymenopterans and aquatic fauna have devastating effects on biological control ecosystem services. Planthopper outbreaks are induced when biological control services are compromised and insecticides are the main causes (See Bottrell and Schoenly, 2012 and Heong and Schoenly 1998). In Central Thailand abamectin and cypermethrin had been widely used by farmers especially in the early crop stages as prophylactics. But they have little or no effects on pests and are more destructive to natural enemies especially in the aquatic that provide the “invasion resistant services”.
In cooperation with TABA, a campaign was launched to stop the use of abamectin and cypermethrin in rice fields as a short-term measure to restore biodiversity and ecosystem services and reduce the outbreaks. Pesticides in Thailand are being sold like FMCGs (fast moving consumer goods) through thousands of retailers and sub-retailers that have shops at the village levels thus promoting misuse. We found that 86.2% of the farmers purchased their insecticides from these shops. The campaign first launched in Bangkok was repeated in Chainat province with support from the provincial governor, Khun Chamlong Phasuk to also introduce ecological engineering and “no insecticide use in first 40 days”.
At 18 months after the campaign, we conducted a survey in Chainat and neighboring provinces, Ang Thong and Suphan Buri to determine if the campaign had worked. There was higher awareness, as 90% of the farmers we interviewed had heard about the campaign – 96% in Chainat, 87% in Suphan Buri and 82% in Ang Thong. We disaggregated the data and found that a significantly larger proportion of farmers who had heard about the campaign knew why they need to stop using the two insecticides (Table 1) than those who had not heard. More farmers who had not heard of the campaign continued to use abamectin and cypermethrin than those who were aware of the campaign. About 70% of the farmers who had not heard about the campaign would continue to use the 2 insecticides while only 35% of the farmers who were aware of the campaign would continue to use them.
Table 1: Comparison of farmers who had heard about the campaign with farmers who had not heard about the campaign in Chainat, Ang Thong and Suphan Buri provinces.
[table id=1 /]
There were significant differences in beliefs between farmers who were aware of the campaign and those not aware (Table 2). The campaign increased farmers’ beliefs that abamectin and cypermethrin can cause planthoppers to increase and felt that farmers should stop using them among those who were aware of the campaign. Proportionately fewer farmers believed so. However, there were no significant differences in beliefs “the two insecticides are dangerous to rice” and “mixing the two insecticide with herbicide sprays is a bad practice”.
Table 2: Differences in beliefs about abamectin and cypermethrin between farmers who heard about the campaign and farmers who had not heard about the campaign in Chainat, Ang Thong and Suphan Buri provinces.
[table id=2 /]
# Kolmogorov-Smirnov Z
@ p is probability ns = not significant; ** highly significant.
The campaign had worked in creating awareness and had immediate effects on farmers’ newly formed beliefs and practices. Media campaigns, such as the “Stop Abamectin and Cypermethrin”, are widely used to convey information to large populations. However, exposure to campaign messages is considered generally passive as it is often one-way and feedback loops are limited. Such campaigns compete with pervasive product marketing, powerful social norms, and behaviors driven by habit (Wakefield, Loken and Hornik, 2010). Thus, over time these new beliefs would likely gravitate back toward the position held prior to receiving the message (See Escalada et al 2009). This phenomenon, known as discontinuance, is especially more common and rapid where the abundance of conflict messages prevail in the information supply chain. Such pattern of normal decay in beliefs has been documented in persuasion research (Eagly and Chaiken, 1993).
The sleeper effect is also common with regard to effects of campaigns (Kumkale and Albarracin 2004). Although a campaign may have a very high increase in awareness, beliefs and practices are lower. This might be due to the sleeper effect where after time taken to “digest” the new information can lead to changes in beliefs and practices. Repetition of the campaign messages will certainly be useful to enhance the process of positive change.
Mass media campaigns can change the behavior of whole populations by targeting the cognitive or emotional responses of the audience. At the societal level, change can also occur when media messages set an agenda for discussion about a particular issue (Wakefield, Loken and Hornik, 2010). For instance, public discussion of health, economic and environmental issues related to insecticide misuse and pest outbreaks can lead to changes in government policies. Consequently, for media campaigns to work, policies that support behavior change must be in place.
Eagly, A.K., and Chaiken, S. 1993. The psychology of attitudes. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich..
Escalada, M.M., Heong, K.L., Huan, N.H. and Chien, H.V. 2009. Changes in rice farmers’ pest management beliefs and practices in Vietnam: an analytical review of survey data from 1992 to 2007. Pp 447-456. IN Heong KL, Hardy B, editors. 2009. Planthoppers: new threats to the sustainability of intensive rice production systems in Asia. Los Baños (Philippines): International Rice Research Institute.
Kumkale, G. T. and Albarracín, D. 2004. The sleeper effect in persuasion: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 130, 143-172.
Rogers, E.M. 1995. Diffusion of innovations. 4th Ed. New York: The Free Press.
Wakefield, M. A., Loken, B., and Hornik, R. C. 2010. Use of mass media campaigns to change health behavior: A review. Lancet, 376: 1261-71.