International Journal of Social Science & Economic Research
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Canisius Mpala

Small scale horticultural farmers in Matabeleland North grow a variety of vegetable and cereal crops intensively under irrigation and use many types of agrochemicals to control pests, diseases and weeds. To assess the use of these agrochemicals, a survey was conducted in February to April 2014 in Hwange, Lupane and Umguza districts of Matabeleland North Province. The study sought to identify the agrochemicals used in horticultural crop protection, handling, farmers' practices, and disposal. Data was collected through focus group discussions, field observations and a questionnaire survey on forty five small holder farmers in Umguza Irrigation Lots, Chentali and Lukosi in Hwange and Tshongokwe irrigation schemes. The agrochemicals used by the farmers in the study areas were insecticides and fungicides (all respondents) and herbicides (25%). More than 80 % of the respondents applied pesticides on a weekly basis depending on the crop. Insecticides and fungicides were routinely applied by 80% of the farmers. Fifty nine per cent have primary education and cannot read and understand the instructions on the labels and only 38.7% of farmers have received training on safe use, storage and disposal of agrochemicals. The study also found out that 38.5% of the farmers re-used the agrochemical containers and reported having felt sick after routine application of pesticides. Agrochemical related health symptoms included skin itchiness, sneezing, dizziness and headache. Farmers did not use appropriate protective clothing, storage and disposal methods. The findings can be used to develop a tool to quantify the cost of agrochemicals use, awareness on safe use and handling, training of extension staff and farmers in pest management by small scale vegetable farmers in Matabeleland North and contribute to the policy reformation for safe and effective use of agrochemicals.

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