Sorghum, maize and cowpea serve as staple food for people in Africa and are grown mostly by small-scale farmers. A major constraint on the production of these crops is attack by insect pests among which crop borers are most important, causing 30–80% yield losses. Use of pesticides to control these pests is hazardous and not feasible for the farmers. Alternative strategies for the integrated pest management (IPM) are being developed at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) and include the following components: (1) Intercropping and other cultural practices, (2) Plant resistance to insect pests, and (3) Biological control. These IPM components have now been developed to a stage where they can be taken for on-farm trials under farmers' management for subsequent use by them. But, adoption and diffusion of agricultural innovations requires a prior knowledge of the farming systems and the socio-economic circumstances in which the target farmers operate, and their bearing on the use of innovations. Information on these aspects has therefore been obtained through a survey of farming households in Kendu Bay and Oyugis Divisions in western Kenya during April—August 1986. The survey was conducted jointly with UNECA and Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya, under a project funded by the Royal Government of Belgium.
The survey involved interview with 150 farmers, (75 in each Division. In Kendu Bay 27 were men and 48 women whereas in Oyugis 40 were men and 35 women.) and was based on a questionnaire which comprised six sections. Five sections covered the farmers' background, farming practices, pest problems and their control, socio-economic conditions, and accessibility/willingness of the farmers to participate in the project. The last section included field observations on the insect pests of sorghum, maize and cowpea.
On the basis of the information obtained on above-mentioned aspects, criteria were defined and assigned appropriate weigh tage for selecting 25 farmers in each Division for on-farm trials. The selected farmers included 12 men and 13 women in Kendu Bay while in Oyugis 13 men and 12 women were selected.
The measures that need to be taken to counter these limitations and thereby assist the farmers in increasing food production have been recommended.