Impact of large-scale, government legislated and funded organic farming training on pesticide use in Andhra Pradesh, India: a cross-sectional study

Lindsay M. Jaacks, Rajesh Serupally, Shweta Dabholkar, Nikhil Srinivasapura Venkateshmurthy, Sailesh Mohan, Aditi Roy, Poornima Prabhakaran, Barbara Smith, Alfred Gathorne-Hardy, Divya Veluguri, Michael Eddleston

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Abstract

Background: The use of pesticides in agriculture has been associated with the destruction of biodiversity and damage to human health. A marked reduction in pesticide use is urgently required globally, but whether this can be achieved rapidly and at scale is unclear. We aimed to assess whether government-legislated and funded organic farming training in Andhra Pradesh, India, reduced pesticide use by farmers and sales of pesticides by pesticide retailers. Methods: We did a cross-sectional survey between Aug 11 and Nov 26, 2020, among farmers and pesticide retailers in Kurnool District of Andhra Pradesh (India). We assessed the impact of the Andhra Pradesh Community Managed Natural Farming (APCNF) programme, which aims to transition 100% of the agricultural land of Andhra Pradesh (population approximately 49 million, 6 million of whom are farmers) to organic farming practices by 2030. We did cross-sectional phone interview surveys of farmers and face-to-face surveys of pesticide retailers. We used multivariable Poisson regression models to estimate relative risks (RRs) and logistic regression models to estimate odds ratios (ORs). Findings: 962 farmers were invited to participate, of whom 894 (93%) consented (709 conventional farmers and 149 APCNF farmers). 47 pesticide retailers were invited to participate, of whom 38 (81%) consented. APCNF farmers had practised APCNF for a median of 2 years (IQR 1–3). APCNF farmers were less likely to use pesticides than conventional farmers (adjusted RR 0·65 [95% CI 0·57–0·75]), although pesticide use remained high among both APCNF and conventional farmers (73 [49%] of 148 APCNF farmers vs 695 [99%] of 700 conventional farmers; p<0·0001). APCNF farmers had lower pesticide expenditures than conventional farmers (median US$0 [IQR 0–170] for APCNF farmers vs $175 [91–281] for conventional farmers; p=0·0001). Increased frequency of meeting with agricultural extension workers was associated with reduced pesticide use among ACPNF farmers. Seven (18%) of 38 retailers reported a decrease in sales of pesticides in the past 4 years; no difference in the odds of reporting a decrease in pesticide sales in the past 4 years was identified between APCNF retailers and conventional retailers (OR 0·95 [95% CI 0·58–1·57]). Interpretation: Despite a major government drive for organic agriculture, about half of APCNF farmers continued to use pesticides and no impact on pesticide sales at local retailers was observed. A combination of policy instruments (eg, bans on highly hazardous pesticides), not solely training for farmers, might be needed to eliminate pesticide use in agriculture. Funding: Scottish Funding Council and UK Research and Innovation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e310-e319
Number of pages10
JournalThe Lancet Planetary Health
Volume6
Issue number4
Early online date6 Apr 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Aranya Agriculture Alternatives, Bharati Integrated Rural Development, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, and the KOVEL foundation, who provided the contact information for farmers. We also thank Hari Krishna Noule, Naveen BV, Priyanka Kota, Raj Kumar Paseddula, G Suresh, and Swetcha Poladi who conducted the phone surveys with farmers, and Raj Kumar Paseddula and Satheesh Chandra Kumar Juturi who conducted the face-to-face retailer surveys. We are grateful for feedback on the presentation of findings relative to other initiatives to reduce pesticide use globally provided by Mark Davis (Centre for Pesticide Suicide Prevention, University of Edinburgh), and Keith Tyrell (Pesticide Action Network UK).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the CC BY 4.0 license

Keywords

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Government
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Organic Agriculture
  • Pesticides

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