Monina Escalada, University Professor, Visayas State University, Leyte, Philippines
Ho Van Chien, Director, Southern Regional Plant Protection Center, Long Dinh, Vietnam
Le Quoc Cuong, Deputy Director, Southern Regional Plant Protection Center, Long Dinh, Vietnam
K.L. Heong, Senior Adviser, Centre for Agricultural BioSciences International (CABI), Malaysia
To popularize and enhance the viewership of the LEGATO Ecological Engineering TV series, “Cong Nghe Sinh Thai”, Long An TV (LA34), Y Tuong Viet (Idea Vietnam), and the Southern Regional Plant Protection Center organized a “Meet the Actors Day” in Khanh Hau ward (village), Tan An Town, Long An province. Held on 3 September 2014, the event was attended by the village People’s Committee Chair, farmers, Long An TV staff and plant protection officers. The “Meet the Actors “ Day is one of the elements in the entertainment-education approach initiated by Miguel Sabido (Heong et al 2008).
At the program, Dr Ho Van Chien introduced the LEGATO ecological engineering TV series – its background, purpose, topics covered, and partners involved. After the opening, two episodes were played back which held the audience in rapt attention and elicited laughter.
The highlight of the event was a skit performed live by the popular TV comedians in the series – Chu Chin Tien Tien, Chu Tam Cang and Chi Bay. The skit was a humorous exchange among three rice farmers about the benefit of silica cycle. Chu Chin Tien Tien pointed out the need to plow and bury straw to hasten the rice plant’s uptake of silica. Chu Tam Cang and his wife (Chi Bay) did not believe this and said that the best way to dispose rice straw is to burn it. Chu Chin Tien Tien tried to explain the benefit of silica cycle, that straw burning will kill natural enemies, and silica should be used in addition to NPK to make the rice plant healthy. This entertainment part of the series served as a segue to the educational part where a local scientist provided the explanation.
In the TV series, Dr. Ho Van Chien, a LEGATO partner, highlighted the uses of silica in the soil, as follows: From booting to tillering stage, the rice plant needs micronutrients to increase yield. Silica is a micronutrient that can keep the rice plant green as it can activate photosynthesis. Do not burn the rice straw because there is silica in the stubbles. Silica makes the plant more resistant to insect pests and diseases.
Focus group discussions
To track viewership and audience reactions to the TV series, we conducted four focus group discussions (FGD) with 41 rice farmers in four villages in Long An province, as follows:
|FGD No.||Village||Number of FGD participants|
In the focus group discussion in Thu Thua village, 3 out of 10 farmers have watched the TV series, particularly the episode on “how to plant nectar-rich flowers on the rice bunds”. They said that they had reduced their insecticide applications to just two sprays per crop from the usually four.
Asked where they learned about what pesticides to use, farmers claimed that they learned it from experience, from TV, and the local pesticide shop. According to farmers in the focus group, officers of the Long An sub-Plant Protection Department (sub-PPD), were difficult to find.
One 28-year old farmer sprayed his rice crop 5 to 7 times, spending VND 1.5 million (US% 71)/ha on hired labor for pesticide applications. He believes that if insecticide is not applied at all, the insect pests will attack the crop. First the rice leaffolder (RLF) will attack the leaves. It will finish the leaf and start eating another leaf. While the rice plant will not die, it will have empty grains.
In the My Thanh village focus group, nearly two-thirds of the farmers have seen the TV series. One farmer noted that he has seen it many times. Among the episode topics watched were: planting nectar-rich flowers on the rice bunds, how to attract natural enemies, and the effects of straw burning.
Farmers’ sources of information on insecticides include watching TV and asking the Southern Regional Plant Protection Center, in particular, Dr. Ho Van Chien. Pesticides are bought from the village pesticide shop.
Farmers plant okra and mung bean on their rice bunds. While they knew that nectar-rich flowers attract beneficial insects, they reported that they did not grow them because their bunds are narrow and there is no space for flowering plants.
In Binh Tinh village in Tan Tru district, focus group participants claimed that they have seen the LEGATO TV series and saw the episode on silica. Silica, according to farmers, makes the rice plant stronger. Farmers practice seed treatment because they are worried about thrips. According to farmers, the Long An sub-PPD organizes pest management training but many of them prefer to attend the training organized by agrochemical companies because they offer promotional freebies (insecticide, cap, t-shirt).
Farmers in Lac Tan village, Tan Tru district who participated in the FGD expressed that they have seen the LEGATO TV series. The “Meet the Actors” day was also featured on TV. Among the topics seen were: planting nectar-rich flowers on the bunds, attracting natural enemies through flowering plants and making the rice plant sturdy through silica.
When shown pictures of nectar-rich flowers on the rice bunds in Hau Giang, farmers said that it will only work in places where the rice bunds are bigger.