Cooperative Extension San Joaquin County
University of California
Cooperative Extension San Joaquin County

IPM and pesticide safety a desperate need in Myanmar

Myanmar (formerly Burma) is located in Southeast Asia, bordered by Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. I was asked by the United States Agency for International Development (U.S. AID) to travel to Myanmar to use my training and experience as an academic advisor affiliated with the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program and UC Cooperative Extension in Riverside County to share information about basic IPM and pesticide safety.

Myanmar temple grounds.
Myanmar is 261,227 square miles in size, a little smaller than the state of Nevada. About 15 percent of the land is under cultivation. Agriculture makes up 60 to 80 percent of Myanmar's gross domestic product, with the vast majority of agricultural production devoted to rice. Most of the farms are under 20 acres.

With the use of small tractors and other mechanized farm equipment, agricultural development is slightly more advanced in Myanmar than Bangladesh, which I visited in September 2015. Chemical pesticide use in Myanmar is intensive with little regulation or guidance. Chemical contamination of agricultural crops is widespread and mass poisoning does occur.

U.S. AID works to end global poverty and help societies become more independent. One way they do that is by helping countries like Myanmar improve their agricultural development. U.S. AID and Winrock International's Value Chain Project sent me to Myanmar as part of an ongoing effort in Asia to instruct growers in basic IPM and the safe and effective use of pesticides.

An unprotected agricultural worker spraying pesticide.
One of my goals was to try to help growers make a connection between health and the safe use of pesticides. When I first arrived in Myanmar, I found that growers had virtually no pest management information available to them and were unaware of how IPM could be used on their farms. The use of an IPM program focuses on the long-term management of pests by integrating various methods to manage problems. Pesticides are a tool in the IPM “toolbox” and used only when needed and sometimes in combination with other methods.

The growers lack of information on using pesticides safely and effectively seemed to be a recurring theme in Southeast Asia. The growers were not given access to pesticide labels or safety data sheets. In fact, the growers are given virtually no information at all on how to use the chemicals they were applying on their farms. The chemical manufacturers are responsible for this.

Farmers would often apply materials multiple times a week (sometimes more frequently), not knowing about the recommended application rate, re-entry or harvest interval. There's a real need for education in Southeast Asia. Ultimately, the growers and the consumers of contaminated agricultural products are the ones suffering.

Pesticide safety training to media group.

Over two weeks, I held four all-day workshops, mostly for growers, with a final workshop with representatives of local media agencies to teach them basic pest management principles and pesticide safety. When I asked workshop participants if any of them knew someone who had gotten sick or had died from pesticide exposure, virtually everyone raised their hands.

Some growers acknowledged that their practices were making them sick, but that they felt they had few options available to them. As a result, the US-based NGO Internews created a public service announcement (PSA) illustrating the use of personal protective equipment when applying pesticides in Myanmar. The PSA is currently being broadcast on Myanmar television and can be seen below.

This opportunity to educate the public on safe pesticide use is not enough. I recommend monthly pesticide tours be set up across the country to emphasize the need for safe and effective use of pesticides. The use of extension outreach is invaluable in situations like this.

Interviewing a tomato farmer on Inle Lake.
Some of the most remarkable farming I have ever witnessed is on Inle Lake, the second largest of Myanmar's lakes. The agricultural population of the lake, which is part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, live in stilted homes primarily made of wood and bamboo. The tomato farmers build up dry ground to farm by raking up soil from the lake bottom and amending the lake soil with aquatic plants that they also rake up from the lake bottom. The farmers do all of their work from boats, including spraying pesticides.

The facilitation of the University of California's Global Food Initiative by U.S. AID and Winrock International is extremely useful. The world as we know it is shrinking with globalization of people and products. We need to reach out to others and give them the benefit of our experience. UC IPM is doing that.

Posted on Thursday, May 5, 2016 at 8:30 AM
  • Author: Vonny M. Barlow
Tags: IPM (18), Myanmar (1), Vonny Barlow (2)

Comments:

1.
Great job in helping these farmers be more productive by farming safer.

Posted by Cheryl A. Wilen on May 5, 2016 at 7:16 PM

2.
Sir I am working on development of bio pesticides. I have developed some products doing well in the field and bringing residues level to an internationally acceptable limit.  
Such products are economically feasible and some synergistic combinations have shown great performances.  
Dr Tariq Pakistan

Posted by tariq nawaz khattak on May 14, 2016 at 9:44 AM

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