The cocoa sector is faced with numerous challenges including, pest and disease incidence. In addressing the incidence of pests and diseases, most cocoa farmers tend to rely primarily on the application of agro-pesticides. This approach to managing diseases and pests on farms largely accounts for the importation and adoption for use of unapproved or sometimes highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs).
This practice is becoming even pronounced among women cocoa farmers, who in recent times have played significant roles in the cocoa supply chain. Unfortunately, these women farmers face multiple challenges including inadequate access to approved inputs and ae thus compelled to even patronize HHPs, which often come are cheaper cost. In view of this, CA undertook a study to assess the gender dynamics in the use of HHPs within cocoa production landscape in Ghana. Specifically, the study assessed the knowledge levels of cocoa farmers on the use of pesticides and determine the driving factors for the use of HHPs among women cocoa farmers. Purposive sampling was used to select 503 cocoa farmers from Cocoa Conservation Association (CCA) membership in both the Western North and Central regions of Ghana.
The results of the study revealed that 15% of sampled male cocoa farmers had no formal education (illiterates) primary school education as compared to their female counterparts (48%). The report concludes that the level of education has a significant impact on reducing the risk associated with the use of pesticides including pesticide poisoning. Based on the level of education, it is reasonable to conclude that women cocoa farmers are at higher risk of exposure to pesticide residue than their male counterparts. Additionally, the educational disparity confirms why about 65% of the men respondents were able to identify both approved and unapproved pesticides whereas only 5% women respondents could establish the differences. Admittedly the low participation of women in sensitization workshops/meetings and other capacity building programmes could also contribute the weak knowledge base of most women cocoa farmers on pesticides.
Most women farmers have often show little interest in agricultural based training programmes often citing available of time, multiple responsibilities, and small size of farms as major contributing factors. While most of the respondents (66% of the men and 54% of the women) are aware of the toxic nature of HHPs, many still continue to patronize it because the prices are often within the reach of the farmers. Thus, the HHPs are less expensive than government-approved pesticides.
The study revealed that majority of male cocoa farmers (55%) could afford to buy approved pesticides as compared to female counterparts (15%).The study highlighted that lower average income of cocoa farmers especially the women cocoa farmers could be a key driver of their use of HHPs. The study recommends adequate extension services to facilitate proper pesticide use and uptake of alternative methods including integrated pest management for improved livelihoods and environmental conservation. Training programmes on good agricultural
practices including the appropriate use of pesticides conducted by government agencies, NGOs, and the private sector should target women cocoa farmers.
If possible, specific training activities aimed at knowledge transfer for women must take into account their level of education, level of knowledge and skills in agriculture and availability. The public sector should design and implement targeted policies and interventions that aim at promoting the use of alternative pest and disease control methods that minimize negative health and environmental effects from overuse of pesticides. Since a large number of the cocoa farmers often fail to use the personal protective clothing (PPEs) citing cost as one of the reasons, it is reasonable to direct efforts are improving the living income of the smallholder farmers. An improved economic wellbeing of the cocoa farmer could reduce the dependence on cheaper and more hazardous pesticides. The cocoa industry players should thus support initiatives that aim at enhancing the living income and improve farm productivity.
This report will not have been possible without the funding support from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany. Additional gratitude goes to INKOTA-netzwerk for the technical and logistical support in making this report a reality. The completion of this report will be impossible without the assistance and participation of the devoted time of the farmers in this research, their contributions are profoundly appreciated.