Pest Control in Developing Countries

While western agriculture has largely come to grips with the need for safe and environmentally responsible pest control, developing countries still have a long way to go.

Third world farmers face huge problems which, until overcome, could see them repeating the mistakes of their western counterparts.

These problems include:

  • Lack of information on crop pests, leading to misuse of pesticides and failure of crops
  • Misinformation from pesticide manufacturers, some of whom are deliberately unloading products that have been banned in the west and encouraging excessive pesticide use
  • Lack of information on applicator safety, faulty and poorly maintained equipment and non-existent first-aid facilities, contributing to thousands of deaths every year.

One way to counter this critical lack of information would be for international agencies to work with local governments to help set up diagnostic services and educational programs. These would allow farmers to more accurately identify their local pests and deal with them in a more environmentally-sound manner.

To improve safety and reduce environmental damage, farmers should also be educated on the need to check their equipment regularly for wear (nozzle, filter, ball valve etc).

They should also have equipment regularly serviced, particularly hoses and pumps. Australia has service agents in every state and territory, but given the lack of resources in most developing countries, this may be something that will need to be introduced over time.

Another vital step should be to introduce Integrated Pest Management practices in third world countries. IPM would reduce production costs through less use of chemicals, reduce the hazards posed to humans and cause significantly less environmental damage.

While this has not yet been achieved in most developing countries, there are some hopeful signs. For example, in a cotton growing area of Peru, overuse of organochlorine and organophosphate insecticides had led to plummeting yields. By introducing IPM measures such as crop rotation, mixed cropping and the use of pesticides that did not kill the pest’s biological enemies, cotton yields rapidly recovered.

Similarly in parts of Africa, IPM measures have assisted in repairing the damage done to coffee and sugar crops from overuse of pesticides, by restricting their use and instead, introducing biological enemies that targeted the pests and reduced their numbers.

In Indonesia, rice crops were devastated by an insect that had become resistant to insecticides due to their overuse. By doing nothing more than simply restricting the use of those insecticides, the Indonesians were able to increase the numbers of the pest’s natural enemies and thus bring about a gradual improvement in rice yields.

In Bangladesh alone, as much as $600 million worth of rice is destroyed by pests and rodents every year, which is a lot of food not going where it is most needed. Assisting third world countries to increase their crop yields through more effective pest control would dramatically increase their ability to feed their own rapidly growing populations.

History unlearned is doomed to be repeated, so we need to ensure the developing world does not mirror the mistakes the west has made in the past. Environmental damage, however localised, ultimately ends up having global repercussions, so it is in our best interest to help introduce safe and effective pest control practices to the third world at the earliest opportunity.

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