Biologicals

Plantwiseplus Develops Agro-input Dealer Training Scheme With Bangladesh Government

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28 May 2024, Bangladesh: Pest outbreaks in Bangladesh are causing a rapid increase in the sale of pesticides. Chemical products such as fungicides, herbicides and insecticides can help to manage pests. However, they also harm the environment and human health.

In Bangladesh, pesticide risks are significant due to their extensive agricultural use and a lack of regulation. A total of 6,410 trade products with 363 active ingredients are registered for use in agriculture. However, pesticide poisoning is common, accounting for almost 40% of total poisoning cases admitted in different levels of hospitals in Bangladesh. Moreover, improper disposal leads to challenges. They include environmental contamination, affecting soil, water and wildlife. 

This has stimulated calls for the promotion of safe pesticide use and alternatives to synthetic pesticides. Alternatives include biopesticides and adoption of integrated pest management (IPM). Furthermore, Bangladesh is currently taking steps to create a new regulation on plant protection. This is expected to be published in 2024. 

As part of the regulation, the government is developing a new certification and registration scheme for pesticide retailers, more commonly known as agro-input dealers. These are the people who sell agricultural inputs, such as pesticides, to farmers. CABI has been instrumental in developing this new scheme with Bangladesh’s Department of Agricultural Extension. PlantwisePlus in collaboration with local partners, is helping to create the scheme’s mandatory training including the training curricula, manual and materials. 

The role of agro-input dealers in Bangladesh 

Agro-input dealers have the potential to play a central role in pesticide risk reduction. In Bangladesh, they are a key source of information for farmers about pesticides and pest management. However, at present, many lack the technical knowledge and skills to do so effectively. They can lack information, for example, around pesticide toxicity and safe handling practices. 

Many countries have minimum education and training requirements for agro-input dealers. However, this is not the case in Bangladesh. Subsequently, among the almost 90,000 registered agro-input dealers in the country, literacy is low, with implications for knowledge transfer to farmers. 

Here, almost 80% of farmers use pesticides based on agro-input dealers’ recommendations. But practices such as mixing applications of different groups of pesticides are gaining popularity. Furthermore, using a higher dosage of pesticides than the label’s direction to kill the target pest is commonplace. Both practices can be harmful to the environment and to human health. 

PlantwisePlus – supporting Bangladesh’s new agro-dealer certification 

PlantwisePlus is working to change this. The programme is helping Bangladesh’s government to develop the necessary training component as part of their certification/registration scheme to help agro-dealers upskill and learn more about pesticide risk reduction and non-chemical pest control. 

In early 2023, PlantwisePlus approached key government stakeholders about agro-input dealer training. The programme wanted to explore the possibility of developing a mandatory training component for the certification and registration of agro-input dealers. Discussions were initiated with Bangladesh’s Ministry of Agriculture (MoA). This included the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) and the Plant Protection Wing of the Department of Agriculture (PPW). The Bangladesh Crop Protection Association (BCPA) also joined. An initial meeting was held in March 2023, followed by a workshop in June. 

Workshop reviews developments in agro-input dealer regulation 

The June workshop explored the details of the proposed mandatory training scheme. The event was chaired by Kbd. Badal Chandra Biswas, the Director of PPW, and Mr Rabindra Sri Barua, Additional Secretary to the MoA, who was also present as the chief guest. The MoA took a strong interest in the proposed training, which, they felt, came at an opportune moment, coinciding with the update to Bangladesh’s plant protection regulatory framework. 

During the workshop, CABI provided an overview of the PlantwisePlus programme and its work with agro-input dealers. Speakers discussed the global need to raise awareness about the use of lower-risk plant protection products such as biologicals. 

Bioprotection, such as biocontrol and biopesticides, is not generally included in agro-input dealer training. However, during the workshop, break-out groups discussed these aspects as well as potential training content, how long the training should take and how it should be delivered. Pesticide handling and use were also raised as important topics. This included use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety protocols. 

Overcoming literacy challenges for agro-input dealers in Bangladesh 

The revision of the current Plant Protection Rule provides an opportunity to revisit the requirements for agro-input dealer certification and include a new mandatory educational requirement and obligatory participation in a training course. 

The new regulation will state that agro-input dealers must complete secondary education and have basic literacy and numeracy skills. For existing agro-input dealers, who may be illiterate or semi-illiterate, a new system will be devised to enable them to be trained, irrespective of literacy. The new system will be gradually phased in to enable remedial training. The long-term aim of the new regulation is to allow only those of a certain educational standard to be licensed. 

Training materials continue to be developed. And a local working group has been formed to collect information for the training, including the curriculum, manual and materials. PlantwisePlus has been instrumental in the facilitation of this work. 

Next steps

In the coming months, it is expected that Bangladesh’s new plant protection regulation will be published. After adoption, a date will be set when new agro-dealers must pass certification and registration standards, as per the scheme which is also currently being developed. 

PlantwisePlus is paving the way to empower agro-input dealers with knowledge to ensure responsible pesticide use. Training them enhances their understanding of the regulatory environment, promoting safer practices and minimizing pesticide misuse. By upskilling agro-input dealers, the programme helps to foster sustainable agriculture and safeguards ecosystems for food production, now and for future generations. 

Also Read: Sharbati Wheat of Madhya Pradesh Still Fetching Highest Bid in Market

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