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Paper presesented at and re-presented here by kind permission of :

Aspects of Applied Biology January 2010
International Advances in Pesticide Application

Innovative approaches to facilitating product stewardship in practice

Summary

A global improvement in crop protection product (CPP) use can be facilitated by free and easy access to the best available information by all users. Making that information available over the internet will improve its accessibility and hence support the improvement in responsible product use. The www.stewardshipcommunity.com website is one such information source - aiming to inform, inspire and involve - the site offers news items, guidance and training modules as well as encouraging the sharing of views and ideas about safe and appropriate CPP use. Since its launch, the site has particularly focused on knapsack sprayers and knapsack spraying. Fulfilling a key information need, leading manufacturers collectively defined an industry based Best Knapsack Spraying Practice and have also provided useful guidance on their products’ use, calibration and maintenance. A parallel effort focuses on encouraging improvements in the design and manufacture of knapsack sprayers. Intense interest in the site continues to ensure it evolves rapidly. Its sustained use is greatly encouraged by features on, for example, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), nozzle selection and knapsack sprayer training as well as case studies illustrating best practice; an information strategy designed to increase interest and awareness of this important spraying activity. The site is planned to expand to include equivalent information and news exchanges on horticultural sprayers. Currently the site is accessible over both faster and slower internet connections and the dissemination of information will be further enhanced by the use of a variety of media and improved accessibility over the mobile network.
Key words: Crop protection products, pesticides, information, training, knapsack sprayers, best practices, safety

Introduction

The International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides encourages pesticide manufacturers to commit to the concept of ‘product stewardship’ which is defined as “the responsible and ethical management of a pesticide product from its discovery through to its ultimate use and beyond” (FAO, 2002). Thus, manufacturers of crop protection products accept a duty of care regarding their chemicals’ development, manufacture, distribution and use. Originally intended as a website designed to support those engaging in product stewardship, www.stewardshipcommunity.com is also developing into a tool through which to practice product stewardship. Thus, one key approach is to seek out and platform best practices particularly from within the product support chain and those adopted by the user himself. The intended audience includes researchers, educators, industry, governmental and media personnel as well as farmers and growers. The scope covers issues over the entire supply chain but currently, particularly focuses on product choice, preparation and application and disposal of containers .

Home Page (65 Kb JPEG)
Home Page

Whilst recognising that there are different paradigms for crop production, our basic assumption is that pesticides play a crucial role in safeguarding farm productivity and improving yields, hence supporting individual farmer incomes and playing an essential role in securing global food supplies. Our website actively supports the appropriate use of pesticides within an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) framework, conservation agriculture (CA) and other initiatives that work towards achieving a sustainable future for all. Within this context we promote safer, more efficient use of pesticides and crop protection products directly to pesticide users by providing information; and indirectly through teachers, extension workers, and distributors by sharing training materials and promoting dialogue. We thus aim to enable the development of an online community focused around the issues of pesticide stewardship where interest groups form and dissipate as issues arise and fall away. 

Because of the potential for risks associated with using pesticides and our concomitant responsibility to produce reliable information of the highest quality, we are restricted in our adoption of  Web 2.0 technologies. Participatory knowledge construction (Salomon & Perkins, 1998) using for example, a wiki, is thus not currently appropriate (though it remains a hope). This also means that whilst we prefer to empower and enable farmers and growers, we are constrained to a more persuasive paternalistic approach of information dissemination.  Our current objectives are thus to:

  • inform by providing relevant, useful and reliable information, 
  • inspire with examples of best practice and 
  • involve users through social networking and content provision.

Inform

The information structure of the site is straightforward and is concentrated in the two main sections ‘Best Spraying Practices’ and ‘Stewardship in Practice’; the latter comprising subsections of ‘conservation agriculture’, ‘biodiversity’, ‘water protection’, ‘integrated pest management’ and ‘human health’.

Initially, the content on best spraying practices was made available as Microsoft PowerPoint presentations for trainers and extension workers to download, adapt and use in their work promoting the safer use of pesticides. To make this material more easily available to pesticide users, it was also provided as web pages; this was less repurposed content than content merely made available in a different media. Other material developed expressly for the website includes the presentation of research studies and papers in lay terms; for example one article examines the ongoing research project designed to investigate the safe storage of pesticides and its potential impact on suicide rates; whilst another article explains in general terms, the process by which regulators identify the risk to human health and seek to manage that risk.

Developments are rapid and since the site was first launched in July 2008, we have learned a great deal which will inform development of new content. Learning materials will be developed which will require the active involvement of the user and include formative assessment tools such as quizzes. Plans include providing much needed information on the spraying of horticultural crops; a daunting topic given the huge range of plant types that are sprayed with an equally wide range of equipment designs. Nonetheless, the importance of this rapidly increasing crop production sector demands of product stewardship that the very best product stewardship information be as widely available as possible. Our triumph however, has been the provision of the Best Knapsack Spaying section including the ‘Best Knapsack Spraying Practices’ (BKSP) which pages have received over 16,000 visits since launch. Knapsack sprayer operators comprise an extensive and important user group but traditionally, their needs have been eclipsed by other user groups. These new guidelines were designed to encourage better operator behaviours and this together with parallel work on the development of safer knapsack sprayers (reported elsewhere at this conference) go some way towards redressing the imbalance.

Involve

The development of the BKSP is also an inspiring example of co-operation and involvement. Initially their development was facilitated by independent authorities who supported the BKSP concept, contributed their knowledge and helped identify the leading knapsack sprayer manufacturers. These manufacturers were invited to participate in the project and in turn contributed information on their products’ range, availability and spare parts; guidance on the selection of an appropriate model of knapsack sprayer for an intended need and best methods of its use; and also contributed information on product functions and training material that describes calibration and maintenance. From these materials, the core ideas for the BKSP were extracted and compiled by the stewardshipcommunity.com team and which were further edited and endorsed by the independent authorities.  The complete set of materials, including the more formally defined practices, reflects the forefront of knowledge in this area today and describes an optimal and preferred standard of operator behaviours which are the best commercially attainable knapsack spraying practices. It is critical to the further development of the practices, that input on the research and experiences of pesticide users, researchers and trainers be incorporated. We hope that www.stewardshipcommunity.com can facilitate the co-ordination of feedback and invites all interested parties to participate and comment. The BKSP was however, a specific project and general involvement in www.stewardshipcommunity.com is invited in three ways; by providing informative content, by participating in community discussions, and by contributing examples of best practice. Use of the community discussion forum has been disappointing and the community area is being redesigned. The Stewards’ Blog however, receives regular contributions from an industry professional passionate about product stewardship matters.

Inspire

Agriculturalists are known the world over for their qualities of ingenuity, improvisation and willingness to share (folklore, time immemorial); the pesticide storage shed built by Maina of Nanyuki, Kenya (and the focus of an article on the site) is the product of such ingenuity. Working under conditions of limited resources, Maina demonstrates what can be achieved.

Maina's pesticide store (63Kb JPEG)
Maina's pesticide store

The ‘Stewardship in Practice’ section thus showcases stories that are intended to inspire and encourage product stewardship endeavours and to describe successes from different parts of the world. The case study of the  Pequeño Agricultor Project in the Andes, documents the delight of the local communities and outlines the project design approach of one stewardship professional and Real IPM write about their safe use training in Kenya. All are warmly invited to continue to contribute such stories of inspiration and to encourage further contributions from farmers and growers a competition is also planned. We shall thus be inviting this user group to send in examples of their best practice by explaining /illustrating that which they are most proud of in their working life, using any digital media; text, images, podcasts and/or videos.

Accessibility and future plans

We aim to be accessible to as many types of internet users as possible where the variables are connection speed, size of screen and language. Currently those with faster and slower connection speeds are well catered for. The high bandwidth site achieves a warm personality through excellent images and received 32,700 visitors from 201 countries in the 17 months since launch. The low bandwidth site addresses issues of usability and is for example, more easily visible to the partially sighted. It is also leaner, faster and appears more functional with only those images which are useful and convey information being available for separate download. The low bandwidth site has received 4,500 visits from 130 countries in the 5 months since its launch.

Home page of low bandwidth site (89 Kb JPEG)
Home page of low bandwidth site

Whilst both versions of the site were designed for viewing using computer monitors, the site can also be viewed over smaller portable devices; our development plans thus also include, improving the presentation of the site when viewed on personal digital assistants (PDAs) and mobile telephones. We also plan to extend the type of content that can be accessed and intend to develop training materials using a variety of media including text, audio and audio-visual. To reflect the growth of this sites greater international use, we shall be offering the content of the site in several languages.

The decisions regarding what mix and type of content should be made available in which language using what type of device is complex. Assessments will consider where there is the greatest need for information, for instance where are the highest levels of self harm or occupational misuse? Where is pesticide use growing fastest? Where is the greatest opportunity? 

In the developing world, increasing proportions of the population own mobile phones (ITU, 2008) which are seen as conduits to the poorest people. Assessment will consider the extent of the mobile infrastructure (the coverage of the mobile network, access to the internet) and the cost of its use. The smaller screens of mobile phones and PDAs require particular design, additionally, lower levels of literacy in the developing countries, challenge commonplace text based methods of navigating websites. The use of pictograms as icons and as navigational tools to audio (and possibly audio-visual) content will be researched.

Finally, www.stewardshipcommunity is a significant component of a leading pesticide manufacturer’s product stewardship strategy.  Any organisation or individual with an interest in pesticides, is welcome to use the website as part of its/your product stewardship strategy. We thus not only welcome contributions of reliable and relevant information and illustrations of best practice, but also request your involvement in the development of www.stewardshipcommunity.com into a global resource supporting farmers and growers over the internet be they using the simplest mobile phone or the most sophisticated computer.

Acknowledgements

The success of this site has been greatly enhanced with the interest and support of many commercial spraying equipment manufacturers and independent experts

References

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2002. International code of conduct on the distribution and use of pesticides. Retrieved from: http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/agphome/documents/Pests_Pesticides/Code/code.pdf .

He, X 2010. The Opportunity and Challenge of Pesticide Application for Agriculture and Horticulture in China. Aspects of Applied Biology, 2010. International Advances in Pesticide Application

Herbst, A et al 2010. A global survey on the performance of side lever knapsack sprayers when judged by ISO 19932. Aspects of Applied Biology, 2010. International Advances in Pesticide Application

International Telecommunications Union, 2008. Mobile cellular subscriptions. Retrieved from:
http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/icteye/Reporting/ShowReportFrame.aspx?ReportName=/WTI/CellularSubscribersPublic&RP_intYear=2008&RP_intLanguageID=1
ISO. 2006.  ISO 19932:2006. Equipment for crop protection – Knapsack sprayers – Part 1: Requirements and test methods. Part 2: Performance limits. International Organisation for Standardization, Geneva.

Salomon, G., & Perkins, D. 1998. Individual and social aspects of learning. Review of Research in Education, 23, 1-24.

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