Herbicide toxicity awareness among smallholder farmers and agriculture extension officers in Malawi


Using evidence from field key informant and written questionnaire interviews with agriculture extension officers, focus group discussions with some smallholder farmers, analysis of packaging labels, and a detailed literature review, this paper argues that Malawian smallholder farmers handle herbicides without adequate information about the advantages and negative impacts of such herbicides because, it appears, the agriculture extension workers themselves lack requisite knowledge on herbicide toxicity. Further, the study finds that herbicides are marketed in Malawi in breach of Malawian law and in contravention of the Rotterdam Convention as the information on the herbicide labels is sometimes inadequate, misleading, and unavailable in local languages. This exposes farmers to potentially carcinogenic chemicals without their knowledge. The paper recommends, inter alia, that an awareness campaign about the long term harmful effects of herbicides be mounted countrywide and internationally to protect illiterate smallholder farmers from herbicide toxicity.


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print ISSN: 2305-7432