|PAN UK Project: Tackling pesticide dependency in cotton production in the Ethiopian Rift Valley|
PAN UK has launched a three year project, funded by TRAID, to help cotton farmers in the Ethiopian Rift Valley adopt alternative methods of pest control to replace highly hazardous synthetic pesticides.
Building upon PAN UK’s experience of successfully supporting similar projects across various parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the project aims to bring greater income, improved health and greater food security and safety to around 2000 smallholder farmers and 300 plantation workers in the Awash Valley region of the Ethiopian Rift Valley.
The problem with synthetic pesticides
Cotton is grown extensively in the Ethiopian Rift Valley, where farmers rely heavily on synthetic pesticides to control pests. They have little or no training in pesticide use and tend to use the chemicals excessively and inappropriately. This has caused numerous problems such as pesticide poisoning, water and soil pollution, livestock deaths and loss of biodiversity. It has also contributed to pest resistance which has driven farmers to increase their pesticide use.
A parallel PAN UK project, supported by the Darwin Initiative, is building capacity and doing field work to assess the ecosystem impacts of the pesticides used in cotton farming, and to identify whether the IPM practices being adopted by farmers through this project result in any significant differences in ecosystem service provision such as pest control or water retention.
This strategy is unsustainable, not just in terms of health and environmental impacts, but also in terms of livelihoods – pesticides are expensive and increased use has reduced the profitability of cotton. This has caused some farmers to abandon the crop and switch to other cash crops like bananas or emigrate.
Plantations use pesticides even more intensively and often adopt aerial spraying which poses a serious threat to local populations. Pesticide poisoning also limits the ability to work and earn an income, and can impose significant medical costs.
Alternative and sustainable methods of pest control
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management based on ecological and cultural practices rather than chemical control. IPM is an effective and economic means of controlling pests. Once trained in IPM, many farmers choose to move to fully organic production.
The project will:
What will the project achieve?
Working with local partner PAN Ethiopia, the project aims to achieve the following objectives:
Who will benefit from the project?
Direct beneficiaries of on-farm training and exchange will include 2,000 smallholder farmers and 300 plantation workers in the Awash Valley region of the Ethiopian rift valley. Farmers will see an increase in income as a result of higher yields and lower input costs and both groups (and their families) will see improvements in health through reduced exposure to hazardous pesticides.
Taken together, these direct beneficiaries will number at least 13,000 men women and children, while the entire local population of 360,000 will benefit indirectly from a cleaner environment and reduced pesticide exposure.
Women play an important role in cotton farming and the project will aims to target women so that they will make up at least 30% of the farmers involved.
Many of the skills gained by farmers will be transferable to other crops and enterprises and participants will be empowered to take on a more active role in decision-making within strengthened farmer organisations and community structures. These organisations will also gain advocacy skills and experience, helping them to negotiate commercially more effectively on their members’ behalf and to influence local, regional and national policy.
Can alternatives to synthetic pesticides really bring greater income, improved health and greater food security and safety to African cotton farmers?
PAN UK and various of it’s partner organisations have experience of successfully supporting similar projects across various parts of sub-Saharan Africa, which have brought greater income, improved health and greater food security and safety to African cotton farmers.
The links below provide more information on the impact of non-chemical pesticide cotton production across parts of Africa:
The following are articles from PAN UK’s journal Pesticides News:
And here’s what just one African cotton farmer has to say
Julién Dédoumin – Organic cotton farmer in Lohouelohouedji village in Glazoué District, Benin
“Before organic, I used to use pesticides to grow my cotton. After spraying I would feel dizzy and sick. I had a rash all over my arms that itched terribly. I scratched until I bled. Now I grow organic cotton. I make more money and I don’t need to spend money on dangerous pesticides. I have been able to buy a motorbike and to build a good home for my family”