News / Asia

Pesticides Continue to Harm Cambodia’s Farmers

Cambodian farmers work on the rice field in Kampong Speu province, west of Phnom Penh, (File)
Cambodian farmers work on the rice field in Kampong Speu province, west of Phnom Penh, (File)
Robert Carmichael

A new study shows that many Cambodian vegetable farmers suffer from acute pesticide poisoning. It is the latest to indicate that Cambodia, like many other developing nations, is struggling to protect farmers and consumers from the dangers of pesticides.

Twenty-two-year-old Srey Kuot is a contract farmer who grows vegetables on a plot of land outside the capital, Phnom Penh. Like most Cambodian farmers she knows pesticides can harm her health. But, like most, she mixes several into a poisonous cocktail.

She says when she sprays pesticides she uses gloves, boots, a mask and a long shirt and trousers. If she did not, she says, it would enter her body and cause illness, which will be very difficult to cure, so she has to take precautions.

But Srey Kuot has no idea what pesticides she uses because the seller at the market in Phnom Penh provides them to her and tells her how to use them.

She says the person who gives her the pesticide tells her how strong it is. And the labels for these chemicals are only in Vietnamese and Thai.

A group of Danish researchers recently interviewed 89 farmers growing vegetables on outskirts of Phnom Penh. They found that 90 percent had experienced symptoms of acute pesticide poisoning.

Their report, published this month in the Journal of Toxicology, says many lack suitable protective clothing, even though about half the pesticides used by the farmers in that study are classified by the World Health Organization as Class I or Class II - which means they are moderately to extremely hazardous to human health.

Some of those pesticides are banned here, but the Danish report says they are smuggled into Cambodia.

The Danish survey echoes one done in 2008 by the Pesticide Action Network, Asia and the Pacific - or PANAP. That study looked at the use of highly hazardous pesticides in eight Asian nations, including Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India and China.

The PANAP study found that two-thirds of the active ingredients used in pesticides by the 1,300 farmers surveyed had highly hazardous characteristics, and presented what the organization called "unacceptably high risks to communities".

The Danish report calls the use of "highly toxic pesticides one of the most significant hazards" for farmers in low-income countries. And it notes that in many developing countries, the widespread availability of the most hazardous pesticides has turned them into a common method of committing suicide.

Moderate pesticide poisoning can cause muscle cramps, chest pains, blurred vision, vomiting and many other symptoms. Swallowing Class I and II pesticides can be very quickly fatal.

When it came to the Cambodian section of PANAP’s study, a third of farmers said they used no protective gear when spraying pesticides. And even among those who did use protective gear, none used a respirator.

Both the PANAP and the Danish studies found that none of the 95 pesticides it assessed carried labels in Khmer, the language of Cambodia, despite a law requiring Khmer labeling.

Keam Makarady, an agronomist and pesticides expert at Cambodian agricultural organization CEDAC, says that is typical.

"We can say that 95 percent are labeled in a foreign language. So it is difficult for the farmer to know what kind of pesticide that they use, and also the direction for the safe use of pesticides," Makarady said.

Makarady says CEDAC and other agricultural aid groups train farmers on safer handling of pesticides, and it pays off.

He says that typically 80 percent of farmers at the start of a training program use the most dangerous types of pesticides. After training, that number comes down sharply.

"But now [after trainin]) the number of farmers that use the banned and restricted pesticides or highly hazardous pesticides has decreased,” Makarady stated. “Now it’s only 10 percent."

Makarady says the problem with pesticides has him so concerned that he buys only organic fruit and vegetables for his family. But buying organic is not an option for most Cambodians, because produce grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers usually is more expensive.

The Danish team says that if the government enforced its own ban on the worst pesticides, the number of farmers being poisoned would come down.

The government says it is working on a new law that will punish people who import banned pesticides.

However, there is no set timetable for introducing the legislation on pesticides.


You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs