The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has given thumbs up to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) led Cassava Weed Management Project for training spray service providers at the grassroots level on the application and safe use of herbicides in Abia, Benue, Ogun and Oyo states.
The trainings, which were conducted with about 659 trained participants, built the capacities of spray gangs already existing in local communities on the safe use and application of herbicides.
NAFDAC’s Assistant Director in Benue State, Mr Emmanuel Anga, noted that the application of herbicides with disregard to standards and safety was becoming worrisome and lauded the training, emphasising that it would correct the current abuse of herbicides in the country.
Underlining the need for herbicides use in agriculture, Mr Anga said that improving cassava yield could be easily achieved with the application of herbicides. However, he added that the application of herbicides must be consistent with the manufacturers’ recommendation in order not to undermine the health of applicators and destroy the environment.
During the training, which had both practical and theoretical sessions, participants were taught safety and correct use of herbicides. There was also a practical session on calibration using knapsack sprayers.
A breakdown of trained participants across states showed that Abia had 105 participants, Benue had 101 participants, Ogun had 122 participants, and Oyo had 331 participants.
The Assistant Director for NAFDAC in Ogun state, Pharm L. J. Halim described the training as a step in the right direction.
She commended IITA for organising the training, stressing that it would raise farmers’ consciousness on safe use of herbicides.
Farmers who participated said the training was a ‘life saving event.’
“Most of us spray herbicides without personal protective equipment and sometimes we use herbicides’ containers for storing water or cooking oil. Through this training, we have discovered that these are wrong practices because empty containers of herbicides contaminate either the water or cooking oil which affect our health,” farmer Emmanuel Tur said.
“If I go home, I will tell my wife and other members of the community to properly dispose empty containers of herbicides,” he added.
Another farmer, Rachel Olanipekun said the training demonstrated the must haves of any spray service provider.
“We have learnt how to protect ourselves and I thank IITA for training us. This training is an eye opener to all of us,” she added.
Across the major cassava growing areas in Nigeria, the use of herbicides is growing with some states having up to 90 percent of farmers using herbicides, according to a survey from IITA. The rising use of herbicides is driven by inadequate personnel for manual labour.
“However, the switch to herbicides demands that farmers need training to effectively apply the products,” according to Professor Friday Ekeleme, Principal Investigator with the IITA-CWMP.
“What the IITA-CWMP has set out to do is to promote integrated weed management options, combining mechanical, agronomy, and chemical weed control so that farmers are able to control weeds in a sustainable manner,” he added.
Godwin Atser, Communication & Knowledge Exchange Expert for the Cassava Weed Management project said the feedback from participants was exciting.
“Through the training, we saw farmers making commitment in terms of behavioural change. This makes me happy,” he said.
The trainings were implemented by IITA- CWMP, with support from NAFDAC, the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) Umudike; Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB), and the University of Agriculture Makurdi (UAM).