Structure and principles of OISAT Info
Context and approach
To eliminate the use of hazardous pesticides, and to promote community-based control over sustainably produced food and fibres, OISAT Info offers concrete alternatives with its Online Information Service on Non-chemical Pest Management in the Tropics. OISAT Info is thus a practical guide for trainers, extension workers and farmers on how to minimize pest damage in a safe, effective, and ecologically sound way.
Its structure is based on the cropping season of the major crops, indicating key pests for each growth stage and plant part. Detailed information is presented on preventive and curative pest management practices with the aim of providing basic and practical information for a holistic approach in pest management, which is both flexible and situation-specific. Our approach is not based on substituting synthetic chemical pesticides with other substances considered as non-synthetic. Instead, our approach is to move towards farming systems with a high degree of self-regulatory mechanisms, in which damaging pest populations are avoided in the first. With the information presented in OISAT Info we intend to offer pragmatic solutions for farmers to get there step by step.
Scope of information
In the current version of OISAT Info, the information presented focuses on the protection of crops from insect and insect-like pests, which are considered as key pests in the agricultural production of smallholders in the tropics. Stepwise, more information will be included on pest categories such as diseases, termites, rodents, birds, snails and slugs and post harvest management. We invite visitors of OISAT Info to inform us as to their specific information requirements. We also encourage them to send us their experiences and reports so that we can expand the information presented.
This information service aims at smallholder farmers. Among these we hope to also reach women farmers, and illiterate farmers. Realistically, we cannot reach these farmers directly. Therefore, our strategy to disseminate the use of OISAT Info will be directed primarily at trainers and extension workers of training and extension agencies working with these farmers who support an agriculture which excludes synthetic chemical pesticides.
This can cover approaches such as IPM, sustainable agriculture, and organic agriculture. We plan to reach the farmers by collaborating with training and extension agencies organized in a network-like structure, thus potentially reaching out to a high number of farmers. OISAT Info has the potential to increase the impact of their training and extension work as it can be easily integrated into their existing approaches. We do not wish to create any new structures of our own. Instead, we would like to collaborate with existing structures and relevant networks, which are interested in using OISAT. The information presented by OISAT Info can also be tested by commercial farmers as an increasing number among them are developing an interest in a safer pest management.
Structure of OISAT Info
The structure of OISAT Info is organized and programmed in such a way that the information provided forms a practical working tool for trainers, extension workers and farmers. On the horizontal navigation bar, technical information is provided and on the vertical navigation bar, information is presented on the concept and structure of OISAT Info and on how to use it.
Horizontal navigation bar
The following entry points to the pest management-related information on the are offered on the horizontal navigation bar:
Crops: With the help of a "Crop-Pest Matrix" the key pests of major crops are indicated by the different growth stages and plant parts throughout the cropping season. By clicking on the pest associated with a certain crop stage and plant part, the visitor arrives at the page where the pest and its preventive and curative management is described.
Pests: A second entry point to pest management methods is through Pests. In case the visitor is not certain of the species, visual descriptions of major categories of insect pests are presented by using icons. The major pest categories we have identified are caterpillars, beetles, hoppers, soft-bodied insects, flies, termites/ants, and very small pests. Under the name of the category and the icon, we find the names of the pests described. By clicking on these, the description of the pest will open with a picture .
Control methods: To get information directly on a certain control method, the visitor can enter this category.
Library: In this section, direct access to full-text documents is provided. The documents are divided into user-friendly categories.
References: In this section, the external weblinks are presented using the same categories as in the Library.
Vertical navigation bar
Under this bar, OISAT Info is introduced and the term "Non-chemical Pest Management" is defined. User Assistance is being given, by outlining the structure and principles of OISAT Info. Under this point, information is also given on how OISAT can be used and on how it can be integrated into training and extension activities. With the search function, specific information can be located easily and with the help of the printmanager, specific information can be downloaded and saved so that it can be edited and put together into training material in a printed version. The international network of PAN can be accessed directly and general information on the Site is provided.
Criteria for information
The pest management practices presented by OISAT Info must comply with criteria that are in conformity with the overall concept of OISAT to promote a holistic approach to pest management and the stimulation of self-regulatory mechanisms within the farming system. This conforms with the policy of PAN Germany which is to eliminate the use of hazardous pesticides, and to support ecologically sound, socially just and economically viable organic agriculture.
As a result of extensive discussions, we have decided to include categories of practices and substances which are permitted in organic agriculture.
These are: 1. natural enemies, 2. pest-controlling plants, 3. other substances, 4. physical methods and 5. other methods. Regarding inputs and substances we go by the concept that a. synthetic substances are not included and b. non-synthetic substances are included unless they are prohibited. A difficulty faced, however, is that there is a diversity of organic standards including materials which are allowed for pest management. Some standards do permit non-synthetic substances under certain circumstances such as the ones from the USA. Some of the practices and substances which are allowed in some organic standards may also cause side effects on beneficial insects, other non-target organisms or humans. Therefore, we have decided to include available information within the categories of allowed practices and substances. When describing pest-controlling plants with side-effects, these are described as POISONOUS PLANT or EXTRACT IS POISONOUS. Additional recommendations for the protection of the non-target organisms, farmers and consumers will be given to minimize possible side-effects. Over and above our inclusion of this information we would emphaticlly encourage users to put preference on practices with no side-effects.
One very critical aspect is the quality management of the information we process and present. The sources of information which we are using are scientific publications, project reports and documented non-scientific reports from training and extension agencies and local information providers. The quality control system, which we are applying is, that we send our descriptions to scientists, specialized in the particular field, for their review. With this system we expect to be able to include a diversity of information sources and knowledge systems and at the same time meet quality requirements. The internet links to which we connect, will lead directly to sources that offer information which details our descriptions. We are endeavoring to only include links that provide an added value which we will regularly check.
IPR and recognition
The contents of OISAT Info have been generated by a diversity of experts. OISAT Info presents their information in a system that is intended to facilitate the access of users to this information. Therefore, it is imperative to acknowledge the source and author of the information used in a generally accepted way. All sources of information used in a specific description will be cited at the end of this description or on a separate page References.
Language is a major limitation to reaching the defined target group. OISAT Info at the moment is in English only. And how we express ourselves in the English language is also not exactly in the same way as farmers would express themselves - there is a form of a cultural difference. Even though we are aware of this, it will be for the meantime remain a challenge and we will be doing our best to improve this by continually including more experiences from the field.
PAN Germany has initiated this information service. However, it can only come to life, if it finds its way to the users and if the users accept it as a resource. To ensure that the information finds the way from web to field and vice versa, PAN Germany has recognized that it needs collaborating partners who have direct access to farmers. In a first step, collaboration is sought with training and extension networks which can integrate OISAT Info into their existing work. In the future, emphasis should also be laid on the collaboration with local institutions including educational institutions. PAN Germany can act as catalyst and trigger OISAT Info. Giving life to OISAT Info will depend on the recognition given to it by its users, the support of local institutions and an active and fruitful South-South exchange.