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Module 3 - Vietnam: Entertainment-Education to Reduce Pesticide Use in the Mekong Basin

Many rice farmers in Vietnam use high fertilizer rates and apply more pesticides than necessary. These practices might stem from the perception that high levels of inputs and pest-free conditions are essential for high yields. Yet high fertilizer rates generally favor pest and diseases and prompt higher pesticide use. Farmers spray insecticides early in the crop season to control leaf feeders, which generally have little effect on yield. These sprays disrupt natural biological control mechanisms (the ecosystem’s “immune system”), which in turn increases the risk of pests and of more pesticide use later in the crop cycle.


Research has shown that a large proportion of rice farmers’ pesticide use can be reduced. Many of the chemicals are hazardous to human health as well as detrimental to the environment, disrupting natural biological control mechanisms and promoting secondary pests, such as the brown planthopper. For instance, in the first 40 days of the crop cycle, sprayed fields can produce 56 million more pests and 14 million fewer predators per hectare than unsprayed fields. Because farmers’ decisions to spray are caused mostly by loss aversion, biased beliefs, and local peer pressure, mass media can effectively modify the cognitive heuristics of decision-making and change farmers’ practices.


Chuyen Que Minh (My Homeland in Vietnam ), a soap opera designed to communicate integrated pest management (IPM) principles and practices to rice farmers, was launched in Vinh Long Province  on 7 July 2004. The story concerns a rice farming family in the province. Interwoven with the daily chaos, problems, conflicts, and happiness they face is information on such aspects of IPM as biological control, plant compensation, effects of pesticides on natural enemies, human health, and aquatic species. The first episode, broadcast over the Voice of Ho Chi Minh City (VOH) and Radio Vinh Long, featured the main characters in Mr. Hai’s home on the anniversary of the death of his wife. The soap opera, which airs twice a week,   has broadcast 105 episodes, of which 29 were devoted to encouraging farmers to reduce seed rates, fertilizer rates, and pesticide use in a media campaign called, “Three Reductions, Three Gains” (box 3.21).


In addition to the broadcasts, the Voice of Ho Chi Minh City organizes monthly competitions that have attracted more than 1000 participants. The drama series is now offered by four other provincial radio stations. In support of the radio drama, the provincial extension has established 14 radio clubs that meet monthly to discuss both the storylines and educational content of the previous episodes. The clubs help to build social and information networks in the villages.


Project Objectives


The project aimed to develop and implement an education-entertainment (EE) approach to communicate pest and resource management information to rice farmers in the Mekong Basin and evaluate its impact as a means of enhancing social change in agriculture, environmental protection, and health attitudes and practices.


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