The PAS project targeted farmers in Columbia, Peru and Ecuador, growing crops on less than 3 hectares of land. In some communities, like Boyacá in central Columbia where this group represented 91% of farms, there were very few larger ones.
How farmers used to spray
Surveys were conducted at the start of the projects to determine what training was needed. These found that, typically, in each community, farmers were overwhelmingly male, more than half were under 40 years old and had a basic primary education. Farmers were asked questions ranging from how they used pesticide products - where pesticides were stored and how they were applied - to where the empty packs were disposed.
Most but not all farmers, stored products outside the house but often, used containers were simply left in the field. Significant proportions of farmers did not read or understand product labels, some did not calibrate sprayers or used very rudimentary means of measuring quantities to be applied.
Some form of basic personal protection in terms of special clothing was usually worn while spraying and washed afterwards. However, this was usually only a hat, long sleeved shirt and sometimes boots. Gloves and face masks were very rarely worn.
Training is given in the classroom and on field days using demonstration plots established with the help of local sales representatives.
Support materials include personal protective equipment for safe spraying and pamphlets on the proper use and handling of products, reminder cards with emergency phone numbers, posters and videos. At the end of their training farmers are presented with a certificate acknowledging their participation.
In addition to training farmers themselves, their children take part in the Espantapájaros (scarecrow) programme. This involves the use of classroom sessions, cartoon stories and videos based on the Espantapájaro character who teaches children to persuade their parents to handle and store pesticides safely.