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Risk awareness leads to decline in pesticide use

- PRATAP BISTA, HETAUDA

Apr 13, 2015-

Sustainable farming practices have led to a drop in the application of chemical pesticides in Makwanpur after decades of increasing use.

Vegetable growers in a number of village development committees in the district have been shifting towards organic manure due to widespread awareness about the risks of using pesticides.

Makwanpur is one of the major vegetable suppliers to the Kathmandu valley. Daman, Palung, Bajrabarahi and other villages have adopted sustainable production practices. These villages including Kulekhani, Markhu and Tistung were known as prolific users of pesticides to boost production.

However, the mindset of the farmers has changed now as a result of the action launched by the government in June 2014 against pesticide use in vegetable farming.

Last year, the Rapid Pesticide Residue Analysis Lab in Kalimati had revealed that 26 of the 187 vegetable samples examined in the lab contained a high degree of residues of pesticides making them inedible.

Vegetables including tomato, chilli, cauliflower, egg plant, potato, cowpea and bottle gourd were found to contain 45 percent pesticide residues. Such vegetables are not fit for consumption and their sale was banned.

The incident greatly affected farmers in Makwanpur. However, it created widespread awareness among them about the ill effects of pesticides. As a result, they have started cutting down on the use of chemicals in their fields.

“Pesticide use in the district has been dropping,” said Rewati Raman Poudel, chief of the District Agriculture Development Office. “As farmers have been educated about the negative effects of pesticides on human health, they are shifting towards organic manure.”

Hadikhola, Daman, Palung and Agraa villages have already adopted sustainable production practices. Poudel said that the government had been educating farmers to produce organic manure and applying it. Farmers have been given more than 1,000 drums to prepare organic manure.

“I started using chemical fertilizers after I saw my neighbours doing it frequently to boost production,” said Dhan Bahadur Gamal, a farmer from Taha Municipality. “But now, I use chemical fertilizers only if they are required and also ask government technicians to help me before applying them.”

According to him, farmers were forced to dump their products since traders stopped buying them after the government started testing vegetables for chemicals.

“The government’s action last year prompted farmers to cut down on the use of chemicals by 20-30 percent, particularly in the northern part of Makwanpur,” said Madhu Acharya, a technician at the Agriculture Service Centre. “The centre has also launched various awareness campaigns to encourage farmers to apply organic manure.”

A report of the Plant Protection Directorate of the Ministry of Agricultural Development states that Nepal imported 345 tonnes of pest-killing chemicals worth Rs380 million in the fiscal year 2012-13. Vegetable farmers used 85 percent of the total shipment.

The report said that more than 85 percent of Nepali farmers do not follow the instructions before applying them. For example, the waiting period observed by most growers after applying pesticides is less than four to five days when it should be at least two weeks depending on the chemical.

The average use of pesticides in Nepal is 142 grams per hectare while it is 1,400 grams per hectare on vegetable farms. The use of harmful chemicals is very high in the Central Development Region due to the increasing number of commercial vegetable farms. Farmers in Bara, Chitwan, Dhading and Kavre districts spray pesticides five to six times a year, and also use extremely hazardous chemicals, government officials said.

Published: 13-04-2015 08:30

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