Cotton is a popular plant – not just with people but also with insects. But not all insects are good for the cotton plants. As pests, they can ruin entire yields and thereby the income of a family. This worries cotton farmers like Thomas Bwambale from Uganda. Through partnering with Cotton made in Africa and participating in agricultural trainings however, he has learned that it is not always necessary to use toxic pesticides to protect his precious yields from pests.
Traditionally, cotton farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa apply pesticides according to the calendar. They decide to spray chemical plant protection products in regular intervals, regardless of the actual pest infestation and according need for protection on the field – at the expense of the farmers’ budget, their health and their environment.
The CmiA standard aims at schooling cotton farmers to foster the restricted and responsible use of pesticides. According to the so-called threshold principle, it is first determined if the yields are threatened by pests through examining how densely the field is infested. This is easily done by counting on a sample basis how many harmful insects there can be found on the plants. Thomas Bwambale uses this method: “In the farmer trainings, I was shown how to count pests, how to tell them apart from beneficiaries and how to know when it‘s really necessary to use pesticides.“ As a simple tool, the thresholds are being measured in pictograms that give famers an easy orientation. Bwambale tells us about the effectiveness of the sensitisation in handling pesticides: “Through the trainings, I have learnt that pesticides are bad for the environment and my soil and I now only use them when there is a concerning amount of pest infestation on my field”, reports the farmer. “Today, I do not spray regularly, but only when it is really needed”, he continues. Through the conscious use of pesticides, the smallholder farmers can save a significant amount of money and at the same time protect the environment, their health and their soils.
As the application of pesticides poses a risk for the environment as well as for farmers’ health, the Cotton made in Africa standard strictly excludes the use of pesticides classified as dangerous by international conventions.1 Pregnant or nursing mothers, minors, ill or inexperienced people are forbidden to work with pesticides for their own protection. Moreover, farmers like Thomas Bwambale learn how they can adequately protect themselves when spraying and which gentle, environmentally friendly and more sustainable alternatives can be used for pest control. Amongst others, this comprises measures such as organic pesticides or molasses traps.
1) Pesticides regulated by the Rotterdam and Stockholm Convention or which the WHO has ranked as extremely or highly hazardous (class Ia and Ib) may not be used. For their own safety, pregnant women, nursing mothers, sick people, children, and untrained and/or inexperienced persons are prohibited from working with pesticides.