Pulling away from pesticides in the Red River Delta
Knowledge is the first step in reducing pesticide use. To promote safe crop protection strategies, AVRDC is studying the constraints farmers face in Vietnam.
Farmers grow vegetables year-round in the fertile soils of the Red River Delta around Hanoi in Vietnam. Long, narrow plots intensively cultivated with many different types of leafy greens, fruit vegetables and root crops criss-cross the delta plain. Men do most of the land preparation and watering, while women take care of planting, fertilizing, harvesting and selling. Pests and diseases are usually the main difficulty for farmers. Both men and women carry out pest control, and previous studies have shown synthetic pesticide use is extremely high.
During the discussions, farmers tested their knowledge about pest management in French bean and leafy mustard. For instance, they were shown pictures of different insects and asked to separate those that damage crops from those that help crops. Many incorrectly identified beneficial insects such as ladybugs, earthworms and lacewings as pests. Farmers admitted their lack of knowledge about natural enemies; they trust the local pesticide shop to provide them with the necessary products to solve their pest problems. Farmers did not know which pesticides they applied. They were aware that pesticides are hazardous; many regularly experienced dizziness, drowsiness, headaches and itchiness directly after spraying pesticides, and mentioned that such symptoms could last for several days. Yet good crop protection was their priority, and they felt satisfied with the immediate solution pesticides offer.
Some positive developments were noticeable. Containers to dispose of empty pesticide packages are now widely available across the fields, and help to reduce the hazard of careless disposal. Biopesticides are generally available in shops; farmers like to use them and they appreciate the effectiveness of these products as well as the lack of ill-health effects. Several farmers tried pheromone traps distributed by the plant protection department and thought they were effective. However, shopkeepers don’t sell the traps, as they felt the traps were too expensive. The interviewed vegetable farmers expressed their hope that the project could help bring down the cost of traps and biopesticides.
The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)/Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)-funded project “Attraction in Action” develops and tests new methods for farmers in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos to reduce their dependence on synthetic pesticides and thereby improve their health and income. Together with the Fruit and Vegetable Research Institute (FAVRI), AVRDC is conducting a baseline study to better understand the constraints that farmers in Vietnam face, and to quantify indicators to monitor the project’s impact over time. Focus group discussions were held in early February in preparation for this study.