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Cassia Nigricans' beneficial properties as biopesticide in African farming systems - experiences by ACRA Foundation in Burkina Faso

The Participatory Approach adopted by ACRA Foundation in Burkina Faso within the EWABELT Project (GA 862848) was presented during the 23rd Infopoverty World Conference on April 12, 2024 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, attesting to the advantages of Cassia Nigricans as biopesticide employed in farming systems in Burkina Faso.

"When we talk about participatory approaches, we mean that the end user of the technology is part of the process itself and research is not only extractive but we are also taking care of sharing the results in an adaptable manner so that it is responding to farmer needs"

Watch the statements by the speakers on our "SI in Africa" Joint YouTube channel

In the past decade, African farmers have employed minimal amounts of pesticides, averaging 0.11 tonne annually. This translates to the lowest pesticide usage per unit of cropland area, per person, and per agricultural production value compared to other regions. Specifically, the application rates stand at 0.41 kg per hectare per year, 0.11 kg per person per year, and 0.42 kg per 1000 International Dollars annually, respectively. (Source: Pesticides use, pesticides trade and pesticides indicators Global, regional and country trends, 1990–2020, FAO)

Acknowledging to these figures, ACRA Foundation, partner of the EWABELT Project working in Burkina Faso, is adopting the participatory approach to rediscover traditional agricultural knowledge. In doing so, the potential of Cassia Nigricans, a local plant, for pest control has been rediscovered and tested, with promising results comparable to commercial biopesticides. On the wave of successful research, farmers have started to adopted this biopesticide once again, expanding its use to various crops and communities. ACRA now plans to validate and disseminate this knowledge through manuals and other publications as well as to share data with research institutions towards the improvement of food-security levels in sub-Saharan Africa.

Learn more about Cassia Nigricans and the methodology adopted by ACRA with its President, Mr Nicola Morganti, who presented the study cases from Burkina Faso during the second session of the 23rd Infopoverty World Conference dedicated to the Project on the theme “Poverty eradication and hunger: a first challenging priority for AI” on April 12, 2024 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Thank you chair. Let me drive you through our work in Burkina Faso in the framework of the EWA BELT project that Professor Seddaiu introduced a few minutes ago. ACRA is an Italian NGO working since 1968 in Africa and Latin America supporting communities in order to access food, water, education, and renewable energies, we work also on environmental protection and supporting economic activities for inclusive and sustainable growth. In Italy and Europe, we work mainly in global citizenship education.
Our role as an NGO in this project is participatory research. When we talk about participatory approaches, we mean that the end user of the technology is part of the process itself and research is not only extractive but we are also taking care of sharing the results in an adaptable manner so that it is responding to farmer needs. The project intervention area is displayed on this map. We are doing research on indigenous technical knowledge together with local cooperatives. Despite working close to an area to the capital city my colleagues are facing challenges in reaching rural areas. They have to be cautious in their movements due to security threats.
Looking at the situation prevailing in the Sahelian region and elsewhere, unfortunately, I have sometimes the feeling that we should drop all that we are doing for SDGs and focus on peace-building. In fact, our common effort in fighting poverty is also helping in building peace however it’s evident that these efforts are not enough to end violence. Coming back to our work which is on rediscovering traditional knowledge through interviews in the villages, we learned that in the past farmers in the intervention, areas used Cassia Nigricans, a local native species, during the storage period mixing the dry leaves to the grains in order to repel harmful insects.
However, this technique has been practically lost over the last 20 years and many farmers had even difficulties in finding and recognizing plants probably due to biodiversity loss. Although Cassia Nigricans properties were known in the past farmers never used it during the growing season as a biopesticide. It was therefore decided to test its efficacy during the growing season adapting the same protocol that is used for other leaf extracts that farmers are familiar with, for example, nim leaves. Leaves are crushed and macerated in water and then filtered and liquid is sprayed on the crops as biopesticides. After carrying out an analysis of the first-year trial crops on cowpeas, it was decided to study further traditional knowledge to tackle pathogens associated with this crop.
The preliminary results that are shown in this graphic show that Cassia nigricans which is on the left of the graphic are very effective in controlling the pathogens compared to the central graphic which is on the control plot without any treatment, and they have similar results to the nim leaves extract which is on the left side of the graphic. Regarding yields, the use of cassia nigricans has very close results to the use of the nim extract leaves. At the end of the 2022 season, the results were shared and discussed with the farmers and thanks to the results it was decided to use them also in the field of cowpeas. But in 2023 the farmers decided as well to use the extract of cassia nigricans as biopesticides to protect other crops like maize and sorghum. So final validation of this technology will be done during the year 2024.
So, to conclude the recovery of local knowledge should be of course scientifically validated now with the third year of results and disseminated in a larger manner to be used by the farmers themselves. We will assist the farmers in developing a nursery for the multiplication of the plant since it’s somehow not available in sufficient quantity and then we will develop a manual of good practices that will be translated into the local languages for a larger use at the local level. Finally, the data that we will collect will be shared with universities and research centers that are part of the third node of the plant head platform. In a way, the results of this research will feed up all these platforms and give room for further analysis, comparison, and use at a larger level since the plant is also available in other Sahelian countries. That was it, thank you for your attention.”

Drawing from the insights emerged from the statements of the participants - stay tuned for more! - OCCAM drafted the Final declaration of the Conference, which includes suggestions, proposals and recommendations at all levels to cope with an ever-changing world where technologies, if adequately oriented and regulated, could be beneficial to a global socio-economic development in view of e-welfare for all, in the respect of human rights and UN principles. 

Alongside it, OCCAM outlined the Plan of Action that encompasses all the operative instances that emerged towards the achievement of the SDGs and the UN 2030 Agenda, dedicating particular attention to the best practices of the EWABELT Project and promoting scientific and policy recommendations for the benefit of the most disadvantaged communities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. 

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