- Author: Cheryl Reynolds
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources program assistant Maria Alfaro, part of the Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program, got to see first-hand the role of women in Nigerian agriculture. As part of a three-week volunteer project with Winrock International, Alfaro traveled throughout Nigeria visiting farms, co-ops, and local and state farming and agricultural agencies.
Alfaro's mission was to conduct a pesticide safety evaluation and assess the depth of knowledge of local farmers around safety issues. Alfaro traveled to six of Nigeria's 36 states, speaking to farmers, pesticide distributors, pesticide applicators and government officials. As she traveled from state to state, Alfaro discovered that women are key in Nigerian agriculture.
“The role of women varied by region, crop and local customs," Alfaro said. "In some of the northern regions, women were involved in all aspects of farming, including applying pesticides. Yet in other regions of the South, women were only involved in small, subsistence farming, and did not apply pesticides."
As Alfaro conducted interviews with various individuals from local and state agencies, she was consistently told that for the family's needs to be met, the profits from farming should go to the women.
Alfaro was told in other interviews that the best way to disseminate pesticide safety information to families was “through the moms!”
Although this was primarily an information-gathering mission, Alfaro provided local farmers and parents with tips on preventing and protecting themselves from pesticide exposure. She discovered that empty pesticide containers were being rinsed and reused as juice or water containers in children's school lunches. Empty containers will always contain pesticide residues, even if only in small amounts. Alfaro explained to parents that reusing empty containers poses a huge risk for exposing children to pesticides and told them to stop using them.
At Alfaro's final stop in Ebonyi State, women expressed their appreciation for her coming and sharing important information on how to protect themselves from the pesticides they use on their farms.
“It was a great way to end the conversations on the ground,” said Alfaro.
Alfaro's next task is to report her findings and recommendations, which include more training in a train-the-trainer format. In this type of training, students who are trained in an approved pesticide safety course become qualified to train pesticide handlers and field workers.
“Many farmers are eager to learn about what they can do to continue using pesticides in a safe and effective manner in combination with learning integrated pest management methods of control,” said Alfaro.
Winrock International is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Farmer-to-Farmer Program.