A brief background
In crop protection, synthetic pesticides serve as a quick tool to combat field and domestic pests. Their use has however been accompanied with numerous cases of misuse in several parts of the world. In developed countries like Nigeria where I live, cases of pesticide misuse have become rampant due to the absence of sustained public awareness on their inherent danger. Powered by the prevailing poverty in such regions, this dearth of information continues to promote dangerous activities like the addition of pesticides into rivers to catch fish; field spraying pesticides without protective covering; application of overdose; grain treatment with toxic pesticides and reuse of ‘washed’ pesticide containers for domestic purposes. This situation is particularly worrisome because young adults in developing countries are the main culprits. There is therefore no gainsaying that when we tackle pesticide misuse in our society we contribute towards the sustainability of crop protection.
Approach does matter!
I have observed that various stakeholders concerned with ensuring safe use of pesticides have largely focused their pesticide-use awareness programs on organized groups like farmers, pesticide marketers etc. They do this through workshops occasionally held in a few selected agrarian communities. I am of the opinion that this approach is limiting because it excludes the vast majority of rural and urban dwellers, especially youth, who are not directly involved in agriculture but who regularly buy and apply pesticides in their homes, stores and elsewhere for pest control. This explains why the current method has consistently failed to solve the problem of pesticide misuse. It fails because it has failed to sensitize everyone especially young people! I believe pesticide misuse is everybody’s problem and not just the rural farmer’s. I therefore propose public awareness strategies that sensitize the general public on the dangers of pesticide misuse using existing rural and urban entertainment platforms such as community or school drama groups, popular sitcoms and radio dramas, social media, caller tunes etc. My idea aims to solve a social issue by creating awareness using an entertainment-based approach.
Who cares and who benefits?
Government ministries, international organizations, pesticide companies and other bodies concerned with the safe use of pesticides for agricultural and non-agricultural purposes all have a stake in the success of this idea. Everyone who directly or indirectly handles pesticides or is likely to come in contact with them in the environment will also benefit.
How will the idea work?
The first step is to identify suitable entertainment platforms in a community or target area on which pesticide misuse awareness can be done. The awareness messages will then be incorporated into the selected entertainment platform through social appeal, partial sponsorship or other collaborative approaches. For example, organizations concerned with safe pesticide use may identify a popular sitcom in an urban community through which viewers may be sensitized on the dangers of wrong pesticide handling and incorrect disposal, over dose etc. Similarly, popular musicians may be identified and encouraged to incorporate or compose safe pesticide-use awareness into their songs which can be used as caller tunes. Furthermore, YouTubers with social channels can be approached and encouraged to create awareness on pesticide misuse through videos with URL links shared on other social media platforms for wider reach. On the other hand, rural communities without access to technology can be sensitized on pesticide misuse through platforms like as community, school or religious drama groups, and local radio dramas.
What makes the idea sustainable?
This idea of using entertainment to create public awareness on pesticide misuse in the rural and urban communities is a sustainable one. Firstly, the lifestyle of the target audience will not be disrupted in any way because the proposed approach for awareness will be incorporated into their normal daily routine. Secondly, more diverse groups of people will be consistently reached within a short time at a relatively cheaper cost compared to current approaches. As long as stakeholders regularly sustain all established collaborations with identified entertainment platforms, right information on safe pesticide use will be regularly disseminated to people wherever they live. In other words, sustainability of the approach firmly lies in the ability of all stakeholders to leverage on existing entertainment platforms in the rural and urban areas.
Impact! Impact! Impact!
The idea has immense potentials for impact especially in countries where pesticide misuse cases are rampant. Impact will be mainly in the form of increased knowledge on safe pesticide handling and a positive change in pesticide-use habits and attitudes. These behavioral changes will in turn reduce the numerous cases of food, water and air contamination by pesticides as well as the illnesses and deaths they cause in the society. Evaluation of impact can simply be achieved through periodic surveys of how the approach has reduced pesticide misuse and the attendant health and environmental problems in target communities.
I’m fired up!
I am particularly motivated by this idea because it holds the promise of solving one of the important problems associated with pesticide use in a sustainable way. Inherent in the idea is the possibility of every rural and urban pesticide user having regular access to safe pesticide use information which they can use to make informed choices necessary for the protection of their health and environment. I am excited by this possibility, and yes I’m fired up!
Olusegun Adebayo Ojumoola, Nigeria