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Safe Use training in the Andes: PAS Project

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Project Design

  1. It has to be said…
  2. Where do you start to organise stewardship project?
  3. Identify target population
  4. Assemble team
  5. Design intervention
  6. Implement intervention
  7. Assess outcomes
  8. Critical Success factors

1.  It has to be said …

Projects such as the PAS project are expensive and commercial companies don’t just fund them out of the goodness of their corporate hearts. Where funding is obtained from commercial sources, there will have to be sound commercial reasons as to why any given project should be supported financially.

In the wider context; if crop protection products are not used correctly, damage occurs and eventually regulators step in (e.g. EU water Framework Directive). Preventing damage by encouraging safe use of crop protection products seems preferable. Encouraging and enabling safe and effective use of crop protection products falls under the remit of ‘product stewardship’ which the International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and use of Pesticides ( 245 Kb pdf file) defines as:

“ the responsible and ethical management of a pesticide product from its discovery through its ultimate use and beyond”.

In this instance, product stewardship and stewardship projects are integral to the market offer of the funding company. Product stewardship is intended to be an issue for everyone in the manufacturing and distribution chain - particularly when dealing with smallholders. The motivations for undertaking projects such as the PAS project are thus twofold: commercial and ethical; the design of stewardship projects thus also rests on two issues:

  1. Where can the effort to encourage safe and effective use be applied to most effect?  (usually smallholders in developing and less well regulated countries)
  2. Where is product most used? (what is the predominant crop?)

2. How do you organise a project like this? Where do you start?

An important aim is to support people as they move out of subsistence farming to become active members of the agricultural economy - the focus is therefore on crops grown in areas where productivity and profitability are marginal; flower growing where margins are high would not therefore be considered for a project. Also excluded are those smallholders growing crops supported by crop protocols established by organisations such as Fair Trade.

Much depends on the person driving the project, and the inspiration for any particular project can come from many sources; e.g. written articles, television or radio programmes, research articles and product defence.

The PAS project started because of reports from Columbia that Paraquat was found in water (which is chemically impossible). In another instance a project was triggered by issues of Paraquat residues exceeding maximum residue levels  on potatoes. This was because people were unaware of the pre-harvest interval  and spraying late; a problem which can be effectively addressed by raising awareness and training.

Projects are undertaken where there is an identifiable problem regarding the safe and effective use of pesticides and which problem can be effectively addressed by a project.

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3. Identify the Target Population

In this instance, the initial exploration identified the potential target population as Colombian farmers using paraquat on potatoes and corn.

The next step is to assess the target population and identify what is going on. The information gathered is used to confirm (or refute) the project’s viability; since stewardship projects tend to address issues which are well-understood, assessing viability is usually straightforward. The information gathered is also used in the design stage to define problems - and how they can be addressed - more closely.

The PAS project researched the Colombian farmers’ population to establish:

  • education level (primary schooling),
  • technologies used (low),
  • farm size (principally less than 3 has)
  • crops grown (potatoes and corn).
  • knowledge of safe use practices (poor)
  • geographic dispersion (high).

More detailed information might also be collected regarding

  • Level of good agricultural practices
  • Inherited cultural practices and tradition
  • Family manpower
  • Unionised/non-unionised farmers
  • Sales potential of harvested crops

The “Audit of Adoption of Good Agricultural Practices and Responsible Use of Crop Protection Products” is a key tool in this project.

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4. Assemble Project Team

The aim here is to establish the team structure; establishing its members, relationships and roles. A key objective is building trust in the community; building a team from respected individuals -including some who are independent from commercial motivations - is likely to help. Potential members might be

  • academics
  • government officials
  • distributors, dealers and retailers
  • civic leaders e.g. the mayor or deputy mayor
  • local extension workers,
  • womens’ rights organisers
  • leading farmers
  • members of local farm groups

Focusing on those smallholders that have already collected into a group – perhaps organised by the municipality – is helpful as the new project can tap into the energy of an organisation which is already established.

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5. Design the Intervention.

Agree the intervention.

For the PAS project, problems identified included issues with the safe use of crop protection products and the adoption of good agricultural practices. The intervention agreed was a training programme. 

Establish project objectives

The project’s objectives are consistent with the overall aim of the stewardship projects programme  and are to:

  • Provide continuous training to small potato and corn farmers on the proper and effective use of crop protection products and the integrated management of crops;
  • Work to support Sustainable Agriculture through the adoption of good agricultural practices.
  • Measure the impact of the training programs through adoption audits carried out in the areas of influence of the program
  • Certify farmers’ good agricultural practices endorsed by the company and the local authorities. 

Scope the size of the project

The PAS project aimed to train and certify more than 70,000 farmers

Where the intervention, the solution to the problem, is identified as training, the process is:

  • Define the gap between
    • a) both good agricultural practice and the safe and effective use of crop protection products and
    • b) the current practice of the target population.
  • Design training that will narrow the gap between theory and practice:
    • identify and prioritise the learning required; the key messages that the target population are intended to understand
    • develop and supply training materials communicating those messages
    • design appropriate activities to enable the development of good practice

The most effective programmes are suggested to be those that

  • have a full time trainer,
  • slot usefully into the crop cycle calendar
  • are interesting to farmers and
  • meet farmers’ needs.

Most people are said to want answers ….. solutions to problems: ‘why can’t I grow broccoli?’, ‘What can I do to control grain weevil?’

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6. Implement the Intervention

Typical activities in a training programme include:

  • Identify and train the teacher-trainers who will be in charge of disseminating the message
  • Establish demonstration plots and schedule training workshops
  • Provide farmers with personalised assistance and tailored training
  • Organise meetings and field days with farmers and competent authorities of the area.
  • Hold academic events aimed at disseminating key information and creating/raising awareness of key issues
  • Deliver communication, training and motivational materials to the target population. Ideally, key message should be delivered to the same farmer/worker at least twice a year at an interval of no longer than six months.
  • Provide follow-up field visits to reinforce key messages

The next step is to:

7. Assess Project Outcomes and Review

Useful indicators of the degree of a project’s success are:

  • The number of farmers/workers trained and certified by the project
  • The penetration of the project measured by: the number of farmers/workers trained and certified as a percentage of the number of farmer/workers in the geographic area.
  • Changes in behaviour measured by: the percentage of farmers/workers adopting good agricultural practices and responsible use of crop protection products post training compared with the pre-training percentage of adoption

Since base levels have been established at the start of a project, the percentage of adoption of good agricultural and safe use practices can be measured over time.

Project reviews of strategy and implementation are conducted and ‘feed forward’ into the development of stewardship protocols for the guidance of future stewardship projects.

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Wilmer Mayorga, the PAS trainer (11Kb JPEG)
The role of Wilmer Mayorga, the PAS trainer, has been extremely valuable in developing the relationships with key groups

8. Critical Success Factors are:

  • Knowing what’s causing the problem, knowing how to address it and recognising that you can’t fix everything.
  • Developing good relationships and Ensuring the continuity of personnel and commitment.

An important aspect of the PAS project is to foster the support of influential stakeholders in the communities.  Building relationships with local authorities, government, agricultural support agencies and councils regulating the use of pesticides, hospitals and NGOs is critical to ensure that the learning is embedded in each community and the benefits will continue long after the projects have finished. 

Acknowledgements:  With grateful thanks to Piedad Calle and her work in developing the ‘Ideal Stewardship Protocol’.

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