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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regreti
X
Zana Omer
March 28, 2015 1:19 AM
The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Virginia Tavern Takes Patrons Back to Medieval Times

European martial arts are not widely practiced and are unknown by most people. A tavern in Old Town Alexandria, outside Washington, wants to change this by promoting these fighting techniques from medieval times. Through combining visual arts, martial arts and culinary arts, this tavern brings medieval history back to life. VOA's Yang Lin and Helen Wu report.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More