Potential environmental and human health risk effects of pesticide application in agriculture: a case of smallholder tomato farmers in Uganda
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The objective of the study was to assess the environmental and human health risks associated with pesticide application to control for diseases and pests in tomato production. The specific objectives include: (1) to understand the extent of pesticide use and exposure among smallholder tomato farmers; (2) to assess farmers’ knowledge on the potential dangers associated with pesticide use and the practices used to minimize the adverse effects; (3) to determine the effect of pesticide use in tomato production on the environment; and (4) to determine the health costs and risks associated with pesticide use in tomato production. The study utilized baseline data collected for the Improved Resilience through Sustainable Production of Grafted Tomatoes (IRESO) project. The baseline covered a sample of 297 farmers from five districts including Mukono, Wakiso, Luwero, Mpigi, and Kabale. The risks posed by pesticide application on the environment were analysed using the Environmental Impact Quotient model (EIQ). On the other hand, the Cost of Illness approach (COI) was used to estimate the health costs associated with pesticide exposure. Descriptive statistics show that tomato farmers surveyed sprayed more than the recommended rates each time they applied pesticides, suggesting increased exposure to pesticides. Most farmers (73%) who applied pesticides did not use any protective gear during pesticide application and did not practice proper pesticide disposal mechanisms. Empirical results based on the Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ) estimates show high potential risk effects of pesticides applied by tomato farmers on the health and environment. Fungicides have higher EIQ field use values followed by insecticides and herbicides, respectively. Findings from this study also show that tomato farmers who applied pesticides incur additional health-related costs due to pesticide exposure relative to the production costs. The important factors associated with the health cost due to pesticide use include receiving first aid training by the farmer, acute symptom severity, and education of farmer. Findings from this study generally show high exposure of farmers and their households to pesticides and increased the risk to human health (farmer workers and consumers of tomatoes) and to the environment. Farmers need to be trained safe handling of pesticides, first aid training on pesticide intoxication, and adherence to recommended application rates. The government needs to create incentive mechanisms for reducing exposure through better disposal of empty tins of pesticides. Further, promoting widespread adoption integrated pest management practices (IPM) can help reduce demand and use of pesticides.
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