Ramanathan Pararajasingam starts many farmer training sessions in Sri Lanka with a bottle of water. He explains that he must drink bottled water in these communities because the local water supply might make him sick. Why? Although most Sri Lankan farmers use agricultural chemicals to control pest and disease attacks these days, many haven’t been properly trained on application practices. As a result, these chemicals have a high chance of contaminating water supplies. This simple tactic helps Mr. Pararajasingam show his audiences why proper pesticide usage is so critical.
A considerable number of accidents occur each year in Sri Lanka as a result of pesticide mistakes, causing eye, skin, and respiratory infections. In addition to damaging farmers’ health, using the incorrect pesticide or too much of it can limit its effectiveness. Given that one-third of the country’s working population is involved in agriculture, improper pesticide use is an issue that must be addressed.
The Sri Lanka Supporting Opportunities in Livelihoods Development (SOLID) project, funded by USAID and implemented by Chemonics, is training farmers and raising awareness about the safe and responsible use of pesticides to prevent additional accidents, protect farmers’ health, and improve their efforts in the field. During visits to farmers in the project’s first year, it became clear that farmers were relying on chemical pesticides too much and using any pesticides they could buy without proper guidance. Many farmers were also incorrectly using their protective gear — if at all — and not maintaining the application equipment.