If you are a farmer living on the edge in Bangladesh the last thing you need is a… to be targeted by fraudsters!
Pesticides – whatever we think of their use – cost money that poor farmers can’t afford. They save and invest believing their crops will improve boosting the income of their families. They work and hope for a life that is better.
In Bangladesh farmers are being targeted by fraudsters. They fake major pesticide brands and offer the products at a ‘discount’ to rural, often ill-informed consumers. The pesticides are at best useless at worse dangerous to crops, soil feriility and health. The results are failed crops, massively increased hunger and poverty. On top of this the fake pesticides are having a measureable impact on health with trends in colon cancer and kidney disease showing sharp increases in rural Bangladesh which Independent newspaper suggests is as a direct result of the contamination.
Practical Action is working with farmers in a different way looking at low cost, agro-ecological or low input agriculture that can yield improvements. I’ve already talked about one very tiny idea shared – sticks positioned regularly spaced in paddy (rice) fields which encourages insect eating birds. Another – again one of the simplest technologies ever – was string! We have been teaching farmers to use a grid system when planting. The results are saved seed costs and because the spacing is improved better growing crops so more food for families and produce to sell.
Beyond this we’ve been working with seed companies to ensure that when farmers are purchasing seed or other inputs they come direct from the company – with a discount guaranteeing quality, reducing price and helping farmers escape the clutches of dangerous fraudsters. And providing a communal marketing service for farmers (who own the rural service centre that co-ordinates – think an un-plastered tiny office with no front wall (if you don’t have a wall you don’t need a door) with a garage sized training room attached. When I was there about 25 people were crammed in to learn. It reminded me of teh early days of teh cooperative movement in the UK.
My second week in Bangladesh has been all about our ‘how to’ information service Practical Answers. Stories like this one show how vital it is for small farmers to have a source of information they can trust if they are to have a chance to build a better life . It’s not very sexy, it is very effective – knowledge you trust, training you can put into practice and simple affordable solutions can change lives.
And stop them being ruined!