Vegetable production, tomato production in particular, is an important source of income for many smallholder farmers in Zambia. It can provide them with gross margins that are much higher than maize, the dominant field crop. But these higher returns come with nearly ubiquitous crop loss risks from pests. Two commonly reported pests are bollworms and nematodes. These can dramatically reduce the amount of tomatoes that meet quality standards. To address this, farmers in Zambia are starting to use more pesticides. A trend that can be seen in many African countries, such as Ethiopia and Uganda. Zambian farmers have access to and often apply several extremely toxic pesticides including Monocrotophos, Methamidophos, and Umet. This subjects them to acute and chronic health risks. We worked closely with local government extension agents from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock to design and implement a low-cost farmer-to-farmer training programme. This taught farmers about pesticide toxicity, personal protective equipment, pest-control properties, and other safety information. To assess the impact of information, we conducted interviews before and after training. These collected data on farmer knowledge, pesticide use, and safety practices. We also collected data on pesticide choices and identified how much farmers were willing to pay for protective gear.
SOURCE: THE CONVERSATION