Peasant-led Participatory Research for managing chilli disease

Jodhpur district situated in the western part of Rajasthan is densely populated. Popularly known as “Sun City” , it is the Gateway of Thar Desert. More than 20% of the cultivated area is under irrigation. Intensive agriculture is common in irrigated lands where in commercial crops like cotton, chilli, cumin and groundnut are grown.

Osian Tehsil, an administrative block in the district, is well known for chilli cultivation. Chilli, grown for more than 70 years occupies half of the cultivated area. However, high incidence of pests and diseases, particularly, the Leaf curl virus (LCV) and die-back disease, has resulted in high pest management costs. Continuous application of pesticides has resulted in vectors like whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) developing resistance, over a period of time. All these factors have led to gradual reduction in the cropping area. Even the popular land race, Mathania Red, known for its bright red colour and low pungency, is now on the verge of extinction.

Several institutions like the State Agriculture Department, Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur (CAZRI), the Indian council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the State Agricultural Universities are working at various levels to combat the dreaded diseases of chilli and to conserve the famous Mathania Red chilli cultivar. However, these have had limited impact on the rural masses owing to the absence of farmers involvement. Hence, CAZRI wanted to demonstrate the use of Raw Cow Milk (RCM) for managing the LCV disease in chilli, through the participatory research programme.

 Peasant-led participatory research

Initially, farmer’s field in Mathania village of Jodhpur district was selected for management of LCV with RCM. A pilot study was conducted which resulted in more than 30% control of LCV disease with increase in fruit size and the number of fruits. After seeing the results of the pilot study, farmers from neighbouring villages got interested and were willing to take up trials on their plots.

In view of excellent results obtained with RCM and the enthusiasm expressed by other farmers, rigorous “On Farm” trials were initiated under Peasant Participatory Research programme in prime chilli growing villages. Interested and enthusiastic farmers were selected for the second phase of experimentation from Mathania, Tinwari, and Balarwa villages. These were medium to rich farmers having irrigation facilities and who could afford to conduct On-Farm trials on their plots. Farmers contributed thier land for trials and labour for spraying RCM. Institutional inputs provided to the farmers included chilli seeds treated with RCM and logistical support. Treatments were executed, demonstrated and monitored.

Male members generally dominated the programme as they are the decision makers, particularly where adoption and implementation of new farm technology is concerned. But farm women having a major role in specific activities in farming as well as in animal husbandry  were involved in operations like seed treatment, root-dip, transplanting, weeding, and harvesting. Having a woman scientist in the team, however, would have enabled more active participation by women.

Farmers were convinced with the use of RCM as an ecofriendly pest management option. Besides, they willingly accepted the use of RCM for disease management for various other reasons as well. As rearing livestock was one of the main professions of farming community in the region, there was adequate supply of rawmilk for farmers to use as a pest management measure. Farmers were already using it in other vegetables and crops. Besides, cow milk was easily available with no health or environmental risks. Moreover, selling milk was no more remunerative owing to lack of milk marketing facility. All these factors encouraged farmers to use cow milk for the management of plant diseases, which also saved huge expenditure on pesticides.

Kishan Mela / Mirchi Divas were organised in hot spots areas which helped in building better understanding among farmers and scientists on technology development and adoption. Such events also enabled dissemination of useful technologies. Clearly, farmer to farmer sharing and learning about integrated chilli cultivation spread faster among the chilli cultivators. In addition, the local press (e.g., Rajasthan Patrika, Dainik Bhaskar and many other newspapers) also played an important role in widespread dissemination among chilli growers.

Validation of local innovations with scientific experimentation adds value to local knowledge. Adoption of such new knowledge could be possible via “On Farm” research and demonstration. People’s participatory research is highly dynamic, demand­ based, cost-effective, eco-friendly and enables better adoption of alternative practices. The main focus is to forge sustainable linkage between the innovators, farmers and consumers, which forms the “Golden Triangle” of peasant-led participatory research. Moreover, traditional approaches of communication along with new methods of mass communicating tools for farmer-to-farmer exchange could greatly help in spreading the knowledge and its adoption.

R. Raj Bhansali and Arun Kumar, Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur 342 003, India E-Mail:


Raj Bhansali, R. and Arun Kumar 2002, Recent advances in management of chilli diseases, In: Plant Pest Mangement, Ed. P. C. Trivedi, A vishkar Publishers, Distributors, Jaipur, pp. 211-228.

Vyas, N.L. and Arun Kumar, 2002., Chilliing virus with milk: Bridging the gap between farmer’s knowledge and formal science, In: Farmer-led Participatory Research -Cases from Western India, Eds. Astad Pastakia, Brij Kothari and Vijaya Sherry Chand, Book for Change, Bangalore, pp. 36-61.

R. Raj Bhansali and Arun Kumar

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