Turning Risk into Opportunities
Safe pesticide application services provided by trained Spray Service Providers (SSPs) generate employment opportunities and income for 15 youth in Chereponi in northeast Ghana.
The use of pesticides in crop production has become a common phenomenon among smallholder farmers in Ghana. These pesticides are generally used during land preparation, post-planting weed control, in the control of insect pests, and in pre-storage stages of the cropping cycle. However, the increase in the use of these chemicals has not been backed by a campaign to ensure their responsible use considering the potential hazards they can cause to crops, humans and the environment. There is also inadequate advice provided by input dealers, who are usually the primary source of contact for farmers. In the absence of this education, farmers apply their own knowledge and sometimes rely on the experience of colleague farmers in the application of pesticides. The act of spraying is also perceived as a simple exercise that most farmers can carry out on their own, whether they are trained or not. This has resulted in the widespread misapplication of pesticides with a resultant effect on soil productivity, pollution of water bodies, food poisoning, and injury to humans.
The 2SCALE project has worked with smallholder farmers in the Chereponi district since 2012 with the aim of increasing the production of soybeans. 2SCALE has introduced a number of technologies to farmers, including Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) practices. Having recognized the role pesticides play in soybean production, and the fact that their unsafe and inappropriate use is widespread among farmers, 2SCALE organized a four-day training for 15 selected lead farmers who were already engaged in semi-commercial spraying. The purpose of the training was to establish a spraying group that would render professional spraying services to smallholder farmers in eight communities within the cluster. 2SCALE collaborated with CropLife Ghana to deliver the training, who trained the farmers in:
- Identifying the difference between quality, certified agro-chemicals and fake ones.
- Categories of pesticides and identification of their toxicity level.
- Safety precautions, recommended spraying attire, spraying techniques, and calibration of the spraying machine.
- How to administer first aid to victims in case of accidents.
- Timeliness of spraying and pre-harvest interval.
- Identification of common pests and diseases.
- Disposal of pesticide containers.
The sprayers were also equipped with all of the Personal Protective Equipment required to operate effectively and input dealer in the cluster was linked to the sprayers to supply high-quality pesticides to farmers through the spraying group.
After 1.5 year of operation, the spraying group has made significant strives in promoting the safe use of pesticides within the Chereponi cluster. Their relationship with the input dealer and farmers has been strengthened, and the service is gradually catching up with the cluster. So far, the group has been able to provide the service to over 2,000 farmers (60% women) since 2015. As a result of the training, they are able to recommend genuine, effective, and safe pesticides to farmers, and this has increased farmers’ return on investment since they no longer waste money buying fake pesticides that eventually give poor results. The quality of their service is distinguished from that which is carried out by farmers themselves. Due to the effectiveness of weed control achieved and its positive impact on crop growth (as a result of weed suppression), some of the group’s clients believe that the pesticides they use contain traces of fertilizer – which they don’t. As part of the service delivery, the sprayers are also providing education to farmers on safe handling of agro-chemicals and disposal of empty containers.
Employment opportunities have been created for the group of sprayers. On average, each sprayer makes GHS 86,40 (EUR 19,17) per month from providing spraying services. “At the peak of spraying activities, I am able to make an average of GHS 40 (EUR 8,88) per week. This income supports me to invest in my own farm. Farmers who have tried my service are happy about the results, and this has opened opportunities for me to reach out to more farmers,” said Ibrahim Adam, sprayer at Banjani community, northern Ghana.
“The opportunity to reach more farmers exists, and young trained sprayers can turn pesticide application services into a profitable business. However, it will take some effort to get the majority of farmers to understand and appreciate the quality of the service provided by professional sprayers. Many will want to rely on their own experience, which in most cases, is not the recommended practice. It will be a long journey, but the way has been paved,” said Alhassan Issahaku, Partnership Facilitator for 2SCALE in Ghana.