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Safe use training in China

400 Pesticide Safe Use Training Programmes have been conducted over 3 years from 2002-2004 at 60-80 locations by Syngenta (China) Investment Co. Ltd. in co-operation with the National Agricultural Technology Extension & Service Centre (NATESC).

The courses were run in order to support food safety and the implementation of the “Non-hazardous Food Action Plan” of the Ministry of Agriculture. The locations were selected from the 109 Ministry appointed non-hazardous vegetable production bases. 

In order to assist with the farmer training courses and in co-operation with the Board of Health, 234 doctors at township and county level in Pengzhou were trained in pesticide poisoning and first aid knowledge.

Syngenta China trained 30,000 people including key farmers, retailers and grass root extension workers.

The China Southwest Agricultural University assisted with the evaluation of the effectiveness of the farmer training programme in 2004 in order to provide data for the development of future farmer training programmes.

Key measures were:

  1. To evaluate the effectiveness of the training through changes in the awareness of the safe use of pesticides pre and post-training and changes in behaviour during pesticide application
  2. To evaluate the scope and the level of influence of trained farmers to surrounding farmers
  3. To explore the adoption of more technically advanced agricultural extension programmes including a safe use training model and to provide supporting data and learning for future farmer training programmes.

832 people were assessed in the township and counties of Pengzhou City, Sichaun Province including key farmers, retailers, grass root extension workers and farmers in the trained areas; 421 among which were observed personally and 388 photographs were taken.

Examples of key points from the study

Influencing effectiveness of trained users on the wider community

Among the 2307 trained participants in the study, it is estimated that 74,552 farmer families will be influenced by these programmes. Of the 650,000 agricultural workers in Pengzhou city, assuming 2 farm workers in each family, the training program in Pengzhou could influence 149,104 farmers, 23% of the local population.

Images of farmer spraying, before and after training (54Kb JPEG)

Changes in user behaviour

The most notable changes in behaviour noted during field observations were:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) After training 59% of farmers used full PPE, whilst before training, at best PPE was basic with 17% no specific PPE at all.
  • Personal Hygiene After training 83% of farmers washed their hands, bathed and changed their clothes following spraying. Whilst before training 90% of farmers completed only the simplest personal hygiene measures with 9% taking no action at all.
  • Container Disposal  After training 86% of farmers took safe and appropriate measures for container disposal whilst before 74% of farmers abandoned pesticide containers randomly in the field.

These data indicate that even a single Syngenta programme can significantly influence user’s behaviour, enabling us to recognise key issues, identify future areas of focus and measure improvements in standards. Whilst clearly much more remains to be done, there was a significant, positive improvement with all farmers involved in this one district. Industry, government and NGOs should be encouraged to develop effective stewardship programmes on a wider basis.

Following training, pesticide residues reduced generally. The rejection rate of samples after safe use training fell from 2% in 2003 to 0.03% in 2004.