Participation in the PAR process

We started the PAR process with 216 participants, representing the households selected from the 9 intervention communities, and after a year 10 participants withdrew. Additionally, 22 people who were not part of the original intervention group, joined the project officially due to their active and consistent participation to the activities and meetings organized ( > = 3). Attendance levels per meeting varied, 44% (96/216) of the households had high participation (6–7 meetings), and only 13% had low participation (0–2 meetings) [6]. Most attendees were women (~ 78%). Several study participants that played key roles in their communities or that participated regularly in initiatives from other institutions (i.e., NGOs, churches, municipal offices) attended meetings regularly. This inherent leadership was also shown during our intervention, as they often had higher attendance, active participation, or volunteered to support the organization of our monthly meetings.

The main barriers that interviewees identified to attending the PAR meetings were health- or family-related responsibilities (i.e., doctor or school appointments, ill relatives, or because they were not informed about the activities), and men’s absences because of agricultural work. The primary motivations to participate mentioned were the possibility to tackle multiple problems (i.e., insecticide spraying for triatomines, learning new information), and to address rodent issues. In some cases, younger sons or daughters of the participants would attend representing their households.

I said yes [to the project] because we wanted to see the house clean, that there were no animals [kissing bugs]. Those animals are very bad because they bite you.” (Dolores, 2013, female, 32 years old).

What I liked the most was the way they came to teach us how to get rid of mice, how to get rid of kissing bugs.” (Manuela, 2013, female, 43 years old).

Participatory mechanical rodent control program

According to survey results, the most adopted innovation was the use of rodent traps as 98% (n = 203/208) of intervention participants reported using them in the previous year. Most people (35%, n = 70/203) reported using the traps one or many times a week (Table 3). From 203 cases where people had used a rodent trap at some point in the year, 20% (n = 41/203) killed the trapped animals. Most people, 84% (n = 171/203), reported burying the animal, as shown during the training for safety purposes.

Table 3 Adoption, compatibility, and observability attributes reported regarding the use of participatory mechanical rodent control

Participants identified a relative advantage of using traps when compared to the previous methods used (i.e., poison), most reported having stopped using the previous method. Participants reported that traps allow them to have more control over the disposal of rodent carcasses, as poisoned rodents tended to die in their burrows where it was difficult to track and dispose. Additionally, participants acknowledged that traps represented a lower risk for human and animal health in the households (i.e., animals getting poisoned). In the mid-term, traps represented a cheaper option than purchasing poison regularly.

We killed them like that [with poison], but it was bad because they died inside the holes we had in the walls, and it was difficult to get them out. They bothered there; they stank. On the other hand, with the traps it is not difficult because they remain there, then we take them out and throw them away.” (Dolores, 2013, female, 32 years old).

What has helped me the most is that I no longer want mice in the house because they say that kissing bugs also depend on mice.” (Sonia, 2013, female, 32 years old).

Rodents were already perceived as annoying, and a threat to people’s grain storage, food, and personal items, which facilitated the compatibility of this innovation to tackle a current problem in the local context. The traps made participants feel empowered to control rodent presence. Participants showed interest in using traps in the mid-and long- term; the survey showed that 71% (n = 145/203) of the intervention participants would be willing to buy a new rodent trap if theirs got lost or broken. Most of the participants thought of traps as an innovation that the rest of the community would be interested in, as 67% (n = 136/203) thought that other people in the community would be willing to use rodent traps if they became accessible (Table 3).

Regarding the complexity, most interviewees considered that it was easy to learn (21/27) and to use (20/27) the rodent traps. We decided to offer two types of traps, slam traps and cages, as we found mixed opinions during the PAR process. Slam traps were found easy to use because they killed the rodent immediately, but more users were afraid of hurting themselves. Cage traps were identified as easier to set up but posed the challenge of handling a live rodent. Both types of traps were reported to be used by children (from 10 years old) and adults (up to 80 years old). Only 9% (n = 19/203) of surveyed people did not use the traps. Of the listed reasons why they decided not to use the rodent traps, none seem to be related to the complexity of using it (i.e., not having sight of rats or mice, having lent the trap to someone else and not having it gotten back, etc.). Some of the general difficulties mentioned in the women’s interviews also referred to the installation of traps in high places, the fear of killing the trapped mice, or that some rodents were too big to fit in the trap (although a participant shared the creation of their trap).

During the PAR meetings demonstrative workshops and follow-up activities, participants could try using the traps and ask questions, providing a trialability opportunity. Most of the interviewees (24/27) reported that the demonstration workshop was very helpful in learning how to use rodent traps. The observability attribute of this innovation was challenging. Since traps were used at night, most interviewees reported that they could not observe how their neighbors used them. However, 65% (n = 132/203) of survey respondents were willing to lend their rodent traps to neighbors (Table 3).

“I have caught a lot of mice. Last night my husband was telling me to set the traps again because the mice are back in here again.” (Dolores, 2013, female, 32 years old).

I told all the people I invited them to the meetings; we told them about the benefits of the traps. Only one person went to the meetings because I lent her a trap for a week and there were too many mice. The person came and caught quite a few. Now only sometimes they ask me what the meetings are about or what I am going to learn there, but there are people who do not pay attention.” (Irma, 2013, female, 36 years old).

Indoor cleaning practices targeting triatomines and rodents

This innovation encouraged the adoption of in-depth cleaning practices targeting rodents and triatomines, but each participant adopted what was more appropriate for their household. During the meetings we suggested some cleaning activities, prioritizing tackling rodents and triatomines. Survey results showed that the activities participants most often adopted were sweeping the floor (84%, n = 175/208), moving things around regularly (53%, n = 111/208), and sweeping or cleaning the walls (44%, n = 92/208) (Table 4). Other practices like covering food containers, picking up grains, cleaning behind the corners, or behind the furniture and frames were adopted by only one-third or less of the participants.

Table 4 Adoption and complexity attributes reported regarding the use of indoor cleaning practices targeting triatomines and rodents

The major difference between the proposed innovation and the previous practices lies in the promotion of deep cleaning practices which included moving things around, checking or cleaning the walls, and cleaning around the house. As the practices adopted varied, the relative advantage reported by some of the participants was that they were able to notice burrows or rodent tracks and find triatomines or other insects.

What helped me the most was cleaning well inside the house so that kissing bugs and mice don’t find a breeding ground. That’s what I like the most because sometimes you put things in a corner and don’t sweep well, that’s where they find a place to breed.” (Martina, 2013, female, 31 years old).

The risk factors identified were related to socioeconomic conditions, however, aiming for compatibility we focused on cleaning practices instead of house improvement (i.e., plastering walls, etc.). Participants reported having added new activities to their usual cleaning. Reported practices included taking more time to move furniture, boxes, beds, and other things that were close to the walls. They also paid more attention to cleaning around the house (patio), having food covered, and picking up grains that might had been left on the floor. Each participant adapted the proposed practices according to their context and capabilities, reporting that although they had put more effort in, the novel cleaning practices were not performed daily.

Regarding the complexity, the activities’ level of difficulty varied and was related to having to spend additional time and/or effort than usual. Most of the respondents considered easy the three most adopted activities (85%, n = 148/175 sweeping the floor; 60%, n = 67/111 moving things around regularly; 80%, n = 74/92 sweeping or cleaning the walls). Moving things around regularly was also the activity considered most difficult by the people that were implementing it (24%, n = 27/111), but it was the second activity most adopted (Table 4). In general, women were in charge of cleaning the houses, and in the case of older women, sometimes they required the support of men or other members of the household to move things, like heavy furniture, to clean.

Before, I had people to help me in the house to do the chores and now I don’t. It’s up to me alone to be working here at home.” (Laura, 2013, female, 50 years old).

There was no space for the trialability of these innovations during the participatory process, but the interviews showed that the innovations were adopted according to the needs and possibilities of each household. The observability attribute was challenging. Interviewees reported that they were not aware of their neighbors’ housekeeping practices, although in the meetings we suggested some specific activities. However, they mentioned that they observed more cleanliness and order in their own home, which was perceived as a more pleasant and healthy environment.

Environmental management

The innovation consisted of three different but complementary strategies: composting, building or using a chicken coop, and a family orchard. This was the least adopted innovation, as it required certain conditions (i.e., owning chickens, having outdoor space for the coop and orchard). Survey results showed that 45% (n = 93/208) of intervention participants had a compost, 48% (n = 100/208) created an orchard, and 46% (n = 95/208) built a chicken coop (Table 5).

Table 5 Adoption and complexity attributes reported regarding the implementation of environmental management strategies

We found mixed results regarding the relative advantage of these innovations. The most common practice in the area was to let chickens out during most of the year but to keep them caged or indoors during the sowing period. Interviews showed that some people put the compost inside the chicken coop and experienced the benefit of chickens getting fed by the compost. However, some people perceived that the behavior of the confined hens changed in an unproductive way, so they preferred to let them loose. Regarding the family orchard innovation, we found plenty of interest in receiving donated seeds as the participants recognized the economic benefits of growing their own vegetables.

One day I killed one [chicken] and I told my husband: “How fat is this hen that was locked up”, He told me: “That happened because the compost is already there and it [the chicken] is eating little animals”.” (Dolores, 2013, female, 32 years old).

The three activities proposed had compatibility with the local context. Some participants had worked with organic compost and chicken coop as separate projects, but not everyone had continued. The greatest motivation to start the orchard was to take advantage of the seeds that were donated. Interviews suggested that few people had chickens, hence the lack of interest in the coop. Most people in the locality worked in agriculture, however, the seeds provided for the orchard were different from traditional crops.

I had the seeds, I had to sow them.” (Roberta, 2013, female, 30 years old).

These innovations were perceived as the most difficult ones among what was proposed. Complexity was due to the fact that for its implementation there was a need to have space, buy the necessary materials, and invest time in construction and maintenance. Only 28% (n = 28/100) of them still had an orchard at the time the questionnaire was conducted (Table 5). Some of the reasons to abandon the orchard were lack of seeds, water, or time availability. About 48% (n = 45/93) of participants had already stopped composting before the survey was conducted. Other reasons that interrupted having an orchard included plagues or animals that had eaten the garden (roosters, chickens, and cows). Some of the factors listed as reasons to abandon the composting were not having enough water, organic material, space, or time. Other reasons listed were having it been destroyed by animals (pigs, chickens, cows) or that the project had come to an end, so the support stopped as well.

Sometimes the soil is hard, when you have this organic fertilizer that you take from the compost bin, you can mix it and with that you get a softer and more nutritious soil so that the plant grows well, although now it hasn’t grown much because sometimes too much water doesn’t let anything grow.” (Rafael, 2013, male, 50 years old).

For the trialability attribute of this innovation, we relied on the four pilot chicken coops in the intervention communities, since some participants already had chicken coops at home, as well as a structure for the garden and the compost bin. Many of the participants affirmed that our intervention triggered their will to implement one or more activities in their houses. Given that these innovations were located outside the houses, there was some opportunity for observability among neighbors. However, participants reported that they did not know about their neighbors’ chicken and outdoor management practices.

I used to have them [the chickens] all over the house and now I keep them in one place. I vaccinate them and take care of them more.” (Laura, 2013, female, 50 years old).


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