PlantwisePlus Blog

The global surge in pesticide use has helped to increase agricultural productivity. However, it has also raised alarms about the risks they pose to health and the environment. In many low- and middle-income countries, agro-input dealers (commonly called agro-dealers) play a central role in supplying farmers with inputs such as fungicides, herbicides and insecticides. They provide smallholders with the knowledge and products they need for good plant health. 

A recent CABI-led paper argues that agro-dealers could be well positioned to help farmers access and understand not only chemical pesticides, but non-chemical products, too. The study focuses on the case of agro-dealers in Uganda. 

An agro-dealership in Uganda.

Published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, this research looks at the challenge of non-certified agro-dealers. But it also considers the potential role of certified ones too in promoting sustainable pest control. The study was based on data from 557 agro-dealers in Uganda. It sheds light on their critical role. And it poses interesting questions.  

Could this important role help the country’s farmers make the shift to sustainable pest control and environmentally-friendly practices? Furthermore, could agro-dealer certification be the key to strengthening this role?

Certified vs. uncertified agro-dealers ‚Äď differences in biopesticide knowledge

The study reviewed the agro-dealers‚Äô backgrounds. And it revealed that almost half of the sample was not accredited or certified. This is despite certification being a prerequisite for selling pesticides in Uganda. Lack of accreditation poses risks, not least for human and environmental health. These risks include biodiversity loss, soil and water pollution and the poisoning of beneficial insects such as pollinators. For humans, the risks include potential food contamination and acute and chronic health issues. 

Certification is important to ensure a reduction of risks to biodiversity loss, soil and water pollution.

The paper also revealed a low uptake of biopesticide products among uncertified agro-dealers. These natural pest control products are less likely to harm people or the environment. Results showed that only 16% of the agro-input shops included in the study sold biopesticides. The low uptake was primarily attributed to a lack of awareness about the products. It was linked to a lack of accessibility and availability, and a low demand among farmers, too. 

However, the study’s results indicated that certified agro-dealers were more knowledgeable about biopesticides. They were also more likely to sell biopesticide products than their non-certified counterparts. Furthermore, they knew more about environmentally-friendly approaches such as integrated pest management (IPM). This approach lessens the negative impacts of farming on biodiversity and lowers health risks to farm labourers. The paper‚Äôs findings underscore the positive correlation between certification and sustainable pest control. Could certified agro-dealers emerge as champions of safer and more eco-friendly pest management?

Leveraging the untapped potential of certified agro-dealers

In Uganda, agro-dealers are often the go-to source of knowledge for farmers seeking pest management advice. However, even those who are certified can face challenges in providing accurate information. This can be due to limited training and technical knowledge. PlantwisePlus is working to change this, helping the people who train agro-dealers to upskill and learn more about non-chemical pest control. 

Agro-dealers focus on incorporating lower-risk plant protection products.

In October 2023, the programme delivered, for example, a ‚Äėtraining of trainers‚Äô workshop to people who train agro-dealers. The workshop focused on incorporating lower-risk plant protection products using an IPM approach. It was delivered in partnership with Uganda‚Äôs Ministry of Agriculture and Makerere University in Kampala and took place over the course of four days. The trainees were eager to acquire and pass on the information they learned to their agro-dealers. 

This knowledge sharing approach is not just beneficial for agro-dealers. It could also help them to support the work of agricultural advisory services. The reach of extension services is often limited. In Uganda, only an estimated 22% of farmers are covered by the public extension system. So, many smallholder farmers rely on agro-dealers for advice and support. With certification in sustainable practices, this critical role could help smallholders who lack access to extension. And with global challenges like global warming and subsequent pest migration set to worsen, they could help to provide farmers with ‚Äėclimate-smart‚Äô approaches and products.

Overcoming the challenges facing agro-dealer certification 

So, how could countries like Uganda enforce and grow certification schemes? Uganda already has stringent accreditation requirements. They are outlined in the country‚Äôs Agro-Chemicals Control Act of 2006. The certification process mandates completion of formal education and attendance of a training course. It also calls for registration with regulatory bodies. 

Agro-dealer certification could provide a potential solution to emerging issues.

However, the paper emphasizes the role of agro-dealer associations. Nearly 40% of certified dealers are members of the Uganda National Agro-input and Dealers‚Äô Association. This affiliation serves as a testament to commitment to fair business conduct. And it serves as a potential channel for disseminating knowledge and best practices on biopesticides. The paper suggests that the active involvement of agro-dealer associations could help enforce certification and good professional conduct. 

The study also suggests avenues such as a decentralized certification system. This would help to expand the reach of certification. District and local governments, together with other agricultural organisations, could help to implement and oversee accreditation. They could be empowered to provide local-level safe pesticide use training courses to agro-dealers. And they could monitor regulatory compliance.

Looking to the future – agro-dealers as champions of sustainability

Agro-dealer certification, while challenging, also offers potential solutions to emerging issues. It can foster climate-smart and environmentally-friendly pest control. The study of Uganda highlights the existing hurdles. But it demonstrates the transformative power of certification, too. Good processes can help to elevate knowledge, practices and, ultimately, sustainable pest management. 

Global warming is causing greater pest migration. And this will cause farmers to navigate an increasingly complex array of agricultural inputs. Certification stands out as a catalyst for cultivating change. The future must be greener and more sustainable. Agro-dealers can play a pivotal role in fostering this future. Furthermore, key PlantwisePlus activities in Uganda focus on agro-dealer training, especially for youth. This work aims to develop more job opportunities for young people in the country. The programme is harnessing the latest technology to empower people working in agriculture with the information and skills they need to mitigate potentially devastating crop pests and diseases more readily. Uganda’s agro-dealers are well poised to become part of the solution. 

Read the study in full:

Justice A. Tambo, Keith A. Holmes, Caroline Aliamo, Fredrick Mbugua, Christine Alokit, Fred Muzira, Andrew Byamugisha & Paul Mwambu (2024) The role of agro-input dealer certification in promoting sustainable pest control: insights from Uganda, International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 22:1, DOI: 10.1080/14735903.2023.2299181

Learn more about the work of PlantwisePlus in Uganda here

Learn more about biopesticide products on the CABI BioProtection Portal

Images: courtesy of Justice Tambo, CABI

PlantwisePlus gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS), Netherlands; European Commission Directorate General for International Partnerships (INTPA, EU); the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), United Kingdom; and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). 

1 Comment

  1. zafiriqbal5877 on 15th March 2024 at 10:51 PM

    Very nice and interesting
    Your program in Pakistan

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