Achieving Happiness Is The Primary Motivation for Pesticide Use for African Farmers

African Farmer

African farmer after herbicide spray 

Pesticides are used by farmers to achieve high yields of marketable crops that results in increased income. A team of Swedish researchers set out to understand African farmers’ motivation for using pesticides. What they found was that pesticide use led to higher incomes, less family stress and increased happiness.

“The study focuses on kale farmers in peri-urban of Nairobi. Kale is one of the most widely consumed vegetables in urban areas of Kenya and has high nutritional value while at the same time acting as an important source of income to peri-urban farming households. Kale is a fast growing crop that is susceptible to many pests and diseases thus requires use of pesticides.

The illustration shows that leafy vegetables farmers use pesticides to protect kale from pests and diseases. The motivation for applying pesticides therefore was to ensure that kale was good-looking or had high sensory quality attributes. This in turn attracted more buyers and also met buyers’ demands for aesthetic quality, usually sought-after by consumers. In addition, the use of pesticides protected kale from pests and diseases which increased the quantity of marketable kale thus generating more money or higher profit margins to growers. The consequence associated with making more money from kale production was the ability to meet family or personal needs. These needs include children’s education, and the provision of food, clothing and shelter for the family. …In other words, farmers apply pesticides to protect kale from pests and diseases in order to avoid failure to meet family needs which can fuel disputes and degenerate into health problems. …This finding suggests that kale farmers’ most important motivation for using pesticides in kale production is to live a happy life, free from stress-related diseases.”

Authors: Lagerkvist, C. J., et al.
Affiliation: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden.
Title: Means-End Chain approach to understanding farmers’ motivations for pesticide use in leafy vegetables: The case of kale in peri-urban Nairobi, Kenya.
Source: Crop Protection. 2012. 39:72-80.

African Farmers Need More Time to Manage Crops: Herbicides Provide the Solution

Woman in labor

African Farmer Weeding

African farmers are constrained in the amount of time that they have available to improve their farming operations due to the inordinate amount of time required to hand weed their fields. About 50% of their time is taken up with hand weeding. Other opportunities ( such as planting a cash crop) are neglected. The use of herbicides to kill weeds in African crop fields would significantly free up time for farmers to improve their farms.

“The use of herbicides as a weed control strategy under under conservation agriculture (CA) in Zimbabwe was tested in two consecutive cropping season in 2009-10 and 2010-11… The use of herbicides in conservation agriculture systems can be recommended in most farming circumstances; it controls weed species that are difficult to manage, reduces the weeding time for farmers and is seen as a viable option even for smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe.

The results show that it is economical to use herbicides under CA because farmers save at least US$388 worth of time to be used on other off-or on-farm activities.

The time savings by using herbicides under CA can only be a benefit if farmers use this additional time meaningfully for other tasks. Farmers who choose to use herbicides are likely to have more time to commit to other farm operations such as growing vegetables in their gardens for sale, value addition to their farm products and some may also sell their labour off-farm to improve their income. The use of herbicides under CA systems reduces the labour constraints during the peak labour demand periods of the season… With improved weed management through use of herbicides, smallholder farmers can increase their yields and recover the costs of herbicides use.” 

Authors: Tarirai Muoni, et al.
Affiliation: University of Zimbabwe
Title: Weed control in conservation agriculture systems of Zimbabwe: identifying economical best strategies.
Source: Crop Protection. 2013. 53:23-28.

African Women Farmers Are Major Beneficiaries of Herbicide Use, USAID Study Finds

Woman Weeding in Africa

Women Weeding in Africa

The burden of handweeding crop fields in Africa falls on women who spend about 50% of their time as farmers pulling weeds out by hand. This enormous amount of time for weeding prevents African women farmers from undertaking other farming activities such as the growing of cash crops. Herbicides would greatly reduce the need for weeding time and empower women to undertake other more lucrative activities.

“…the future of Malian agriculture will be increasingly determined by labor constraints. Herbicide use in Mali has doubled in the last 5 years in part in response to labor constraints and is likely to increase substancialy in the future. Herbicide use has very positive spillover effects on woman’s time and ability to work on their own crops or collect karite nuts. More extension work and agribusiness training is needed, along the lines of USAID’s IPM CRSP’s work in pesticide literacy and safety, to ensure safe and effective use of herbicides.

All labor saving technology, such as herbicide, is likely to have a gender impact not as much in women directly using it, but in it freeing up women’s time for more lucrative activities. For example increased use of herbicide would free up women’s time during the key time of year when they collect karite nuts, July-August, potentially engendering an increase in the production of karite butter and better women’s incomes.”

Author: Jeremy Foltz
Affiliation: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Title: Opportunities and investment strategies to improve food security and reduce poverty in Mali through the diffusion of improved agricultural technologies.
Source: USAID: MALI. June 16, 2010. Available at:   

Herbicide Use on Cotton Farms Could Greatly Increase Income of Farm Families in Africa

African Cotton Herbicide Experiment

African Cotton Herbicide Experiment

The income of family farms growing cotton in Africa is low largely due to the small size of farms- about one hectare. A major reason that farm size is small is because fields are weeded by hand and there usually is not enough family labor to weed more than one hectare. With use of herbicides, the need for labor is reduced dramatically and individual cotton farms would be able to significantly increase their acreage and incomes.

“Under rainfed agricultural production, common throughout most of Africa, labor bottlenecks at planting and weeding times often critically constrain farm output. During the four to six week period following the first rains, farmers must prepare their soil, plant and conduct the critical first weeding.

Under these circumstances, early season labor constraints, particularly during the first weeding, set an upper bound on the cropped area a family can manage using only household labor. For the average farm household in central Zambia, with five family members, peak-season labor bottlenecks limit the area they can cultivate under conventional hand hoe tillage to about 1 hectare.

In Zambia, herbicide application, instead of weeding with a hand hoe, cuts peak season labor requirements in half.

When combined with dry season land preparation, this reduction in peak season labor requirements enables farm households to crop 2.7 hectares of land under hand hoe cultivation using only household labor. As a result, hand hoe farmers can increase their income from these three crops to 2.9 million Kwacha ($620) per year, triple what they can earn under conventional hand hoe agriculture…

This suggests that cotton company inclusion and financing of one round of herbicides in their cotton packs could potentially raise cotton production and household income considerably.”

Authors: Steven Haggblade and Christina Plerhoples
Affiliations: Department of Agricultural Food and Resource Economics at Michigan State University
Title: Productivity impact of conservation farming on smallholder cotton farmers in Zambia
Source: Food Security Research Project. Working Paper 47. July 2010. Available at: