Pesticide use practices among smallholder vegetable farmers in Ethiopian Central Rift Valley

Mengistie, B.T.; Mol, A.P.J.; Oosterveer, P.J.M.


Pesticide use is a common practice to control pests and diseases in vegetable cultivation, but often at the expense of the environment and human health. This article studies pesticide-buying and use practices among smallholder vegetable farmers in the Central Rift Valley of Ethiopia, using a practice perspective. Through in-depth interviews and observations, data were collected from a sample of farmers, suppliers and key governmental actors. The results reveal that farmers apply pesticides in violation of the recommendations: they use unsafe storage facilities, ignore risks and safety instructions, do not use protective devices when applying pesticides, and dispose containers unsafely. By applying a social practice approach, we show that these pesticide-handling practices are steered by the combination of the system of provision, the farmers lifestyle and the everyday context in which pesticides are being bought and used. Bringing in new actors such as environmental authorities, suppliers, NGOs and private actors, as well as social and technological innovations, may contribute to changes in the actual performance of these pesticides buying and using practices. This article argues that a practice approach represents a promising perspective to analyse pesticide handling and use and to systematically identify ways to change these.