Calibration is the key

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A farmer spraying his crops in Uganda. Awareness of how to use chemicals safely is limited and this farmer isn’t wearing the right protective clothing for spraying.

Do farmers know how to calibrate their sprayer so they are mixing the right amount of pesticide with water to spray their crops?

When we asked the Basooka Kwavula farmer group from Wakiso district in Central Uganda, we found that not many of them do. They all saw the process as complicated and even if they attempted to do it accurately once, they would use those settings for a season or more rather than repeating each time they needed to spray.

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A farmer group reviewing the poster. Photo: Christine Alokit, CABI

The problems this causes are multiple. Farmers are using too much or too little pesticide to have the desired effect on their crop. Too much and it can damage the crop and harm the environment, while too little can have no effect at all and result in crop losses.

Recognising this problem, CABI’s Joseph Mulema and colleagues Benius Tukahirwa and Fred Muzira from the Department of Crop Protection at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries decided there was a need to develop communications materials to help farmers understand the steps they need to take and puzzle over it no more!

So, in July 2016 a team of experts got together in Kampala to work out how to explain sprayer calibration to farmers in easy to understand language and format. Extension workers, government officials, farmers and agro-dealer representatives helped an illustrator draft scenes explaining what to do in practice. The result was a poster showing sprayer calibration.

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Excerpt from the sprayer calibration poster

After field-testing the poster with farmers in Kasawo sub-county, Mukono district and Kangulumira sub-county, Kayunga district in central Uganda to test their understanding, we made improvements to the illustrations and layout and finalised the posters which are now being sent out to over 90 districts to be displayed at Plant Clinics, markets, health clinics and in schools. The aim is to help farmers reduce losses to pests and diseases safely, so they can improve their livelihoods.

The posters have been published in Harvest Money, a weekly 8 page pull-out that is published in Uganda leading newspaper, The New Vision every Tuesday. We have also been able to print an initial number of the posters but are looking for partners interested in reproducing them in their districts to ensure this message gets out to as many farmers as possible. If you are interested, please do get in touch! t.davis@cabi.org

So now you might be asking ‘how do I calibrate a sprayer? Well, I encourage you to look at the poster and find out for yourself! pesticide-calibration-poster

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