PAN UK Project: Armenia field trip initiates study to identify common exposure routes to pesticides E-mail
Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK) staff, accompanied by Rotterdam Convention Secretariat (RC), recently visited Armenia to work with local partners, the Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environment (AWHHE), to initiate a study to identify risky practices and common exposure routes to pesticides. 

The study in Armenia is part of a broader effort to collect information on pesticide exposure and acute pesticide poisoning across six countries in the former Soviet Union. The study will not only focus on the people who handle pesticides, but on others who live and work on the farm and may be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of pesticides on their health. Women, children and seasonal workers, in particular, may be at increased risk due to a variety of behavioural, physiological and social factors.

Knowledge, Attitude and Practice survey

One element of the study is a Knowledge, Attitude and Practice survey, which has been developed and tested over the last few months. This visit was the team’s first opportunity to see it in action and to make any final refinements. The baseline data on pesticide exposure  will be shared with regulatory decision-makers in the region and used to support communications and awareness raising activity in order to reduce risk among target groups.

Lilik Simonyan  and Emma Anakhasyan (AWHHE) interviewing a farmer’s wife in Litchq Village, Gegharkunik Province (Photo: Paul Lievens, PAN UK)

Knarik Grigoryan (AWHHE) interviewing a farmer’s wife in Litchq Village, Gegharkunik Province (Photo: Paul Lievens, PAN UK)

In some parts of Armenia it is common for men to migrate to other countries, such as Russia, to work over the summer season. Women may remain on the family farm to care for children and elderly relatives and keep the farm going. The team was keen to understand how these women use pesticides, whether they have access to information on pesticide safety precautions and good practice, and whether the women or children in the household may be at increased risk of exposure. In the light of this, the team held productive and informative group focus discussions, and interviewed a number of stakeholders including women living in Litchq village in Gegharkunik Province, Shnogh and Haghpat villages in Lori Province.

A farmer’s wife in Litchq village, Gegharkunik Province, shows us the homemade pesticide applicator made by her husband  (Photo: Paul Lievens, PAN UK)

A typical farm house in Litchq village, Gegharkunik Province  (Photo: Paul Lievens, PAN UK)

Knarik Grigoryan (AWHHE) with a farmer’s wife showing us her arsenic based pesticide  (Photo: Paul Lievens, PAN UK)

AWHHE, PAN UK and RC staff hold a group discussion with women in Shnogh village, Lori Province  (Photo: Paul Lievens, PAN UK)

AWHHE, PAN UK and RC staff hold a group discussion with women in Haghpat village, Lori Province  (Photo: Paul Lievens, PAN UK)

AWHHE, PAN UK and RC staff in discussion with a farming family on their farm in Shnogh village, Lori Province. (Photo: PAN UK)

Farm Service Centre

Also on the itinerary was a visit to the newly opened Farm Service Centre in Daraket Village, Ararat Province. Funded by the Center for Agribusiness and Rural Development Foundation (CARD), US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Armenian Ministry of Agriculture, the centre provides guidance and training for farmers, while also piloting non-pesticide pest control methodologies for the greenhouse production of cucumber, peppers and tomatoes, which predominates in the locality.

Farm Service Centre Director, Varujan Khodedanyan, in discussion with Lilik Simonyan (AWHHE), Sheila Willis (PAN UK) and Emma Anakhasyan (AWHHE)  (Photo: Paul Lievens, PAN UK)

The staff expressed grave concern regarding a pest of tomatoes and potatoes that arrived in Armenia around 2011 - Tuta absoluta, also known as tomato leaf miner. The arrival of the pest has seen a rapid escalation in pesticide use and an undermining of efforts to establish IPM or organic production. Reports suggested that some farmers were applying pesticides more than weekly, and that they often have a poor understanding of the products they use or of good practice. It was reported that farmers often treated food crops with no observance of the harvest interval. The team observed sticky pheromone traps for T. absoluta being tested at the Farm Service Centre

Sheila Willis (PAN UK) with Varujan Khodedanyan, Farm Service Centre Director, inspecting the Centre’s pilot trapping system for greenhouse production, the different colour adhesive strips and cards designed to trap different insect pest species.  (Photo: Paul Lievens, PAN UK)

Pesticide shops

The discussions suggest that pesticides are commonly sold to local farmers in small quantities, mixed by shop staff, and supplied in used drinks bottles, as was confirmed by a visit to a pesticide shop in Daraket Village. Many farmers, it seems, rely largely on advice from the shop on how to use the pesticides on their crops. This advice may be of very variable quality.

Pesticides are commonly sold to local farmers in small quantities, mixed by shop staff, and supplied in used drinks bottles  (Photo: Paul Lievens, PAN UK)

Many smallholder farmers in the region apply their pesticides using a tradtional Armenian straw brush, like the one against the wall in the background of this picture  (Photo: Paul Lievens, PAN UK)

Sheila Willis (PAN UK) and Emma Anakhasyan (AWHHE) talking to the pesticide shop assistant  (Photo: Paul Lievens, PAN UK)

The visit also afforded an opportunity for the project to meet Mr. Garnik Petrosyan, the Armenian Deputy Minister of Agriculture, who emphasized the importance of this issue and described the Government’s efforts to reduce pesticide risks by; strengthening the legislation; raising awareness and disseminating information through regional support centres.

Coordination with the Rotterdam Convention and Designated National Authorities to the Convention are a key element to the project. Meeting here are Sheila Wills (PAN UK Project Manager), Elena Manvelyan (AWHHE President), Anahit Aleksandryan, the Rotterdam Convention Designated National Authority, based in the Ministry of Nature Protection, and Lucie Chocholata of the Secretariat to The Rotterdam Convention. (Photo: Rotterdam Convention)

Further information

PAN UK Project: Reducing pesticide risks and promoting alternatives in the former Soviet Union


PAN UK and RC would like to thanks the following:
  • AWHHE for arranging the visit, including accommodation, transport and translation, while also making the visit informative and productive
  • Armenia Ministry of Agriculture for facilitating the visit, and co-ordinating with relevant village Mayors
  • The Mayors of Litchq, Shnogh and Daraket Villages for welcoming our visits and facilitating meetings with farmers’ wives in their respective villages.

Project funded by the European Union (EU) and the Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), this project is part of a wider programme: Improving capacities to eliminate and prevent recurrence of obsolete pesticides as a model for tackling unused hazardous chemicals in the former Soviet Union.
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