Safe Pesticide Handling

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With the Burgeoning pressure to feed more mouths; how sound is the health of the Ugandan farmer? A friend of mine, a rural farmer from eastern Uganda once told me “for the last one year I have been begging my wife to give me at least another child but she has refused.” This farmer already has eight children and he was so quick to quote the bible, saying that God tells us to produce and fill the world. Such cultural practices and more, explain the apparent 3.4 % annual population growth rate and the estimated 34million Ugandan population. But with more mouths to feed what does this mean to the primary producer, the farmer? How many people does one farmer feed in a day? How safe are the technologies that this farmer is using? Has this farmer’s living standards improved over the years or instead his/her life’s clock is ticking day by day? The increasing demand for agricultural produce compounded with the same piece of land, declining soil fertility, insufficient budgetary support, and the undeniable climate change; have forced the farmer to resort to intensive use of fertilisers and pesticides. But how knowledgeable and skilled are the farmers about these agrochemicals? Are the shop operators (agro dealers) qualified to sell these agro chemicals and offer sufficient advice to these farmers? How often does a farmer get to talk to an extension worker? How efficient is the government in curbing counterfeit agrochemicals on the market? A survey conducted by Uganda National Association of Community and Occupational Health (UNACOH) in Pallisa and Wakiso Districts in January 2011 indicated that out of the 318 farmers interviewed, 73.6% of farmers did not use protective gear while handling pesticides, an overwhelming proportion of farmers (99%) mentioned absence of labels on pesticide containers bought from the agro dealers. 36% reported having felt ill immediately after spraying and also mentioned experiencing symptoms like skin irritation, headache, back pain, blurred...
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