Participatory on-farm research (POR), Bolivia

Participatory On-farm Research (POR) activities are the second project component. The objective is to develop locally adapted solutions for organic farmers in a participatory way. The concept of POR activities is as follows (chronological order):

Stage 1: Participatory identification of research topics through socio-economic farm surveys (current practices, local knowledge and associated problems)

Stage 2: On-station trials to assess research topics defined in Stage 1

Stage 3: Dissemnination of information after identification of most promising technologies

The topics to be addressed by POR trials were identified at farmers’ meetings held in regular intervals. The four major topics addressed in PTD Bolivia with their current stages (2014) are:

(i) Cocoa Variety Testing (Stage 2)

  • Aim: Identification of well-adapted varieties for organic management.
  • Activities (2010-14): Evaluation of productivity and incidences of pests and diseases of 16 different cocoa clones in four on-farm trials formerly established by the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Centre (CATIE).
  • Results: Data from 2010 to 2013 showed that some of the local selections (derived from an elite tree selection program carried out in Alto Beni before the project) were not only among the most productive, but also showed earliest maturation and some degree of resistance to Monilia  (Moniliophthora roreri).

(ii) Best Practice of Cocoa Management (Stage 2)

  • Aim: Document practice of outstanding farmers achieving high yield levels.
  • Activities (2012-13): Establishment of agricultural calendars, assessment of yield and pest and disease incidences on five outstanding farms.
  • Results: The socio-economic results suggested that for obtaining good yields, first and foremost producers have to be dedicated to the management of the crop, investing enough time to be able to apply good agronomic practices (e.g. cocoa and shade tree pruning, management of pests and diseases, etc.). Our results confirmed that by applying good practices, > 1’000 kg ha-1 dry organic cocoa beans can be produced. However, the cocoa mirid (Monalonion dissimulatum Dist) and Monilia can cause harvest losses of up to 50%.

(iii) Pest and Disease Control (Stage 2)

  • Aim: Increase the awareness and management of cocoa pests and diseases.
  • Activities (2012-13): Socio-economic farm survey about state of knowledge about Monilia, first on-station trials to assess the efficacy of biological control options for the cocoa mirid.
  • Results: A farm survey conducted in 2012 showed that there is quite a knowledge gap among farmers, underlining the need for educational workshops with farmers. The testing of biological control options for the cocoa mirid in 2013 showed that the Beauveria bassiana product from Probioma (available on the local market) was the most efficient method tested.

(iii) Cacao Nacional Boliviano (CNB) (Stage 2)

  • Aim: Assess the suitability of different types of agroforestry systems to grow the national heritage cocoa (CNB).
  • Activities (2011-14): Selection of CNB fruits in farmers’ fields, installation of several demonstration plots in.
  • Results: There is no yield data yet, as the trees only just started to produce first fruits in 2014. The demonstration plots will be used for exchange visits with farmers and other stakeholders such as other projects dedicated to CNB genetic material selection.