Sustainability Exchange

Identifying best practices for reducing the use and impacts of agrochemicals

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Identifying best practices for reducing the use and impacts of agrochemicals

The intensive use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers to agricultural crops has considerable negative impacts related to health and safety of farmers and workers, environmental damage (on soil, water and biodiversity), food safety and international trade. While many highly hazardous pesticides have been banned by international conventions or are prohibited under voluntary sustainability standards, the problems on the ground remain persistent. There is an urgent need – also within certified value chains – to ensure that highly hazardous substances are phased-out and that the overall load of toxic agrochemicals is reduced.

There are many parties involved in addressing these issues, from governments and NGOs, to supply chain players and agrochemical producers. Interventions range from training on appropriate usage of pesticides and replacing chemicals with (bio-friendly) alternatives to integrated pest management and re-designing farming systems. However, there is limited knowledge on suitable alternatives and on how their adoption can be accelerated in order to achieve impact. We therefore invite you to share and discuss current practices, and what approaches are able to achieve impact at scale in reducing the negative impacts of agrochemicals.

We want to kick-off the discussion with two questions:

  1. What approaches are available to reduce the use of agrochemicals and their risks?
  2. As per your experience, what works and what doesn’t work?

We look forward to your contributions to this important discussion!

Gerben de Witte, Marjoleine Motz and Frank Eyhorn



Identifier les bonnes pratiques pour réduire l'utilisation et l'impact des produits agrochimiques

L'utilisation intensive de pesticides de synthèse et d'engrais pour les cultures agricoles a des effets négatifs considérables sur la santé et la sécurité des agriculteurs et des travailleurs sur le terrain, les  dommages causés à l'environnement (sol, eau et biodiversité), la sécurité alimentaire et le commerce international. Alors que de nombreux pesticides très dangereux ont été interdits par les conventions internationales, ou sont interdits en vertu des normes volontaires de développement durable, les problèmes au niveau du terrain restent persistants. Il y a un besoin urgent - également dans la chaîne de valeur certifiée - de s'assurer que les substances extrêmement dangereuses soient éliminées et le que la charge globale de produits agrochimiques toxiques soit réduite.

Il y a beaucoup d’acteurs intervenant dans le traitement de ces questions tels que des gouvernements et des ONG, des acteurs de la chaine de production, des producteurs agrochimiques. Les interventions  passent de la formation sur la bonne utilisation des pesticides et le remplacement des produits chimiques avec des produits alternatifs (bio) jusqu’à l'intégration de mesures appropriées qui découragent le développement des populations de ravageurs et la  re-conception de systèmes d’exploitation agricoles. Cependant, il y a une connaissance limitée sur les alternatives appropriées agricole et comment la mise en œuvre peut être accélérée afin d'obtenir un impact. C’est la raison pour laquelle, nous vous invitons à partager et discuter des pratiques actuelles et quelles approches sont en mesure de parvenir à un impact à grande échelle dans la réduction des effets négatifs des produits agrochimiques.

Nous voulons commencer la discussion avec deux questions :

  1. Quelles sont les méthodes permettant de réduire l'utilisation des produits agrochimiques et leurs risques ?
  2. Selon votre expérience, qu’est-ce qui est efficace et qu’est-ce qui ne l’est pas ?

Nous nous réjouissons de recevoir vos contributions à cet important débat! 

Gerben de Witte, Marjoleine Motz et Frank Eyhorn



Identificando buenas prácticas para reducir el uso e impacto de agroquímicos

El uso intensivo de pesticidas y fertilizantes sintéticos para cultivos agrícolas tiene considerables efectos negativos relacionados con la salud y la seguridad de los agricultores y los trabajadores del campo, daños al medio ambiente (en suelo, agua y biodiversidad), en la seguridad alimentaria y en el comercio internacional. Mientras que muchos de los plaguicidas altamente peligrosos han sido prohibidos por convenciones internacionales o están prohibidos bajo las normas de sostenibilidad voluntarias, los problemas a nivel local siguen siendo persistentes. Hay una necesidad urgente - también dentro de las cadenas de valor certificadas - para garantizar que las sustancias altamente peligrosas se eliminen y se reduzca la carga global de agroquímicos tóxicos.

Hay muchas partes que intervienen en el tratamiento de estos temas, como  los gobiernos y las ONGs, los actores de las cadenas de suministros y los productores de agroquímicos. Las intervenciones van desde la formación sobre el uso adecuado de los plaguicidas y la sustitución de químicos por alternativas (bio-amigables), hasta la gestión integral de plagas y el rediseño de sistemas de cultivo. Sin embargo, existe un conocimiento limitado sobre las alternativas adecuadas y sobre cómo su adopción puede ser acelerada con el fin de lograr un impacto. Por ello, le invitamos a compartir y discutir las prácticas actuales, y qué métodos son capaces de lograr un impacto a gran escala en la reducción de los efectos negativos de los agroquímicos.

Queremos dar inicio a la discusión con dos preguntas:

  1. ¿Qué métodos están disponibles para reducir el uso de agroquímicos y sus riesgos?
  2. Según su experiencia, ¿qué funciona y qué no funciona?

Esperamos con interés sus contribuciones a este importante debate!

Gerben de Witte, Marjoleine Motz y Frank Eyhorn

March 01, 2016 15:37

We have found the use of Farmer Field Schools to educate farmers about the risks of undesirable or inappropriate use of agrochemicals to be a very effective mechanism.  In our work in Madagascar we have utilised demonstration plots to allow farmers to educate other farmers about the possibilities (a) to minimize the use of pesticides and fungicides (b) only utilize those which are on an approved list (c) alternative approaches using Organic methods.
In our work in Italy we are also connecting farmers with other farmers, especially those who are already following organic methods.  It is clear from our experience that some farmers have better "mastered" organic methods than others and there are clear differences in the quality of the plant rootstock, soil conditions and harvest yields from following "best practices". 

March 02, 2016 16:28

(It seems there were some technical problems in posting comments that in the meantime have been fixed. So please join the discussion now.)

As Hamish mentioned, building capacities of farmers on integrated pest management and alternative methods by means of training and farmer-to-farmer exchange is definitely an important element. However, reducing the "toxic load" must be a shared responsibility not only of farmers, but also of researchers, processors, retailers, policy makers and consumers. In a symposium on how to reduce pesticide use and risks we organized last year we identified the following action fields:

  1. Enhancing research on how to re-design farming systems (agro-ecological principles, robust varieties, alternative crop protection methods).
  2. Strengthening the know-how of farmers and rural advisorys services on agro-ecology, integrated pest management and the use of alternatives (through vocational training, farmer-to-farmer exchange, farmer field schools etc.).
  3. Increasing demand for low-/no pesticide products by engaging brands and retailers to revise their sourcing policies (applying minimum requirements on supplies, increasing the share of sustainability labelled products, introducing resistant varieties).
  4. Raising awareness on pesticide issues among consumers, managers and other decision makers (fact-based information on health and environmental issues, and on available alternatives).
  5. Revising regulatory practices and policies so that they incentivize pesticide use reduction and the development of alternatives (e.g. developing national action plans, improving transparency in pesticide regulation, introducing a pesticide tax, investing in research and education on alternatives).

(For detailed recommendations, see the Briefing paper on pesticide reduction).

Is any concrete experience available on some of these points?

March 10, 2016 14:22

As a Latin-American agronomist I think we can learn a lot from countries where policies on IPM have been implemented, I was impressed when I learned that in the Netherlands for example, pesticides that are highly hazardous are not allowed, farmers need a ‘license’ to be able to purchase a pesticide, and they need to follow regular trainings to be able to renew their license. When I think about my country or any other developing country I realize we are far behind this. Many Highly hazardous pesticides are still being imported although the use in the place of production is banned.

From our own spheres of influence, we should be able to connect with others to find ways on how to support knowledge exchange among farmers, adoption of alternative methods to pest control. I agree with Hamish; FFS have been found to be the most successful way to adopt IPM and move away from dependency on pesticides. If one of the biggest challenges for farmers, is the lack of alternative methods, in terms of availability and accessibility, we should find the way to address this. We must be able to construct learning platforms where FFS coordinators, technical assistants, trainer of trainers, experts and the farmers themselves can share findings on IPM innovations, what technique has worked in which context and under which conditions? This is what we would like to work out together with other standard setting organizations.

March 10, 2016 22:20

Hi Indira, this sounds like an excellent plan! Since you mention "lack of alternatives" I think it is useful to know that there are quite some resources available, including:

  • OISAT, the online information service for non-chemical pest management in the tropics, providing alternative methods per crop and pest:
  • CABI's online-platform PLANTWISE, containing a knowledge platform and plant clinics providing comprehensive information and advice:
March 17, 2016 14:05

Hi Indira,  I don't know which crops you work on, but you might be inetrested in this series of videos and materials produced by PAN UK which identify sustainable approaches for dealing with coffee berry borer in Latin America.

The project was initially aimed at helping farmers end the use of endosulfan, but equally applies to other chemicals.  The basic messageis that good crop sanitation, field monitoring and farmer training are key.  the main findings of the project were:-

(1) CBB control without endosulfan is perfectly feasible:
The findings show that it is perfectly possible to achieve good CBB control without using endosulfan, across a range of farm sizes, climate zones and altitudes, pest pressure levels, coffee production systems, farmer ages and educational levels.

(2) Cultural controls form the backbone of good CBB management:
All farmers met are doing some form of good cultural controls as the backbone of CBB IPM. These include sanitary picking of bored berries or early maturing berries and collecting fallen berries and dried berries left on trees after the main picking season. These practices are essential to reduce the amount of pest breeding sites and reduce CBB levels in the following season.

(3) Field monitoring is an important tool for CBB decision-making:
Almost all farmers carry out some form of field observation for monitoring pest presence and le
vel, identifying ‘hotspot’ areas on their farm and for optimum timing of any control activities.
Most Colombian farmers interviewed regularly sample their plots to assess % CBB incidence and may dissect beans to see if the borers can be reached with a biological or chemical control application.

(4) Some farms have greatly reduced or eliminated insecticide use for CBB:
Several of those farms using insecticides have reduced use considerably in recent years and some have managed not to use any insecticide in the 2013 season, thanks to careful IPM
management. The latter group includes 3 large estates, which are replacing insecticides with
either biopesticides or using methanol traps (in addition to cultural controls and monitoring).

(5) It is a myth that endosulfan alternatives are always more expensive:
Estimates with farmers interviewed revealed that methods such as trapping and use of
Beauveria can be cheaper than endosulfan application or similar in cost. Central American farmers using methanol traps found it much cheaper and less laborious than organising workers to spray insecticide - and far less risky to worker health. None of the farms considered IPM methods to be too costly. Instead, they viewed labour costs of cultural controls and other IPM
methods as a necessary investment to guarantee good coffee quality and which can deliver benefits in higher price, worker welfare, wildlife protection and less environmental pollution.

(6) Phasing out endosulfan use is possible with public and private sector support:
Getting more countries to ban endosulfan and implement the POPs Convention phase out will not cause havoc in the coffee sector. However, governments and, especially, the coffee traders and roasters need to support training and advice for farmers to change practices. Farmer support organisations, sustainability standards and coffee research institutes all play an essential role in helping to phase out endosulfan and replace it with safer, IPM methods.

March 22, 2016 17:53

Thank you all for the inputs so far. It seems that an important focus in addressing the negative impacts of agrochemicals is on farmer knowledge and adoption of alternative practices. Can some of you also share information / numbers on the impact that has been reached with such approaches?

But as Frank also mentioned, a wider focus on other stakeholders is also needed to address this issue. Are there also other experiences that have a different focus, e.g. on improving policies and regulatory practices (specifically in developing countries), or engaging with brands, retailers and consumers to increase the demand for low-/no pesticide products? It would be interesting to see which of these strategies have been effective in achieving impact.

March 21, 2016 14:09

Hello Gerben,


a regular and reliable market for sustainable products is very helpful.  However many of these techniques actually improve productivity.  we have struggled to secure a good premium market for the organic cotton from our projects in West Africa, however, through good extension and innovative approaches, we have helped our farmers cut costs and increase yields so their organic cotton is more profitable than conventional even without the organic premium.  BUT this quality of training does not come cheap

March 22, 2016 17:34

Hello all, sorry for arriving late to the debate.

Agroecological solutions are a real alterniavive to intensive farming.  Their focus on diverse approaches and working with nature makes them inherently resilient and better able to cope with climatic shocks.  they are also highly productive systems and very appropriate for smallholder agriculture the UN's International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)( was very clear that agroecology is a viable option for furture development. It concluded:-

  • Small scale farmers can double food production within five to ten years through agro-ecology (IAASTD)
  • Agro-ecology outperforms conventional farming in regions where the poorest people live and where there is greatest stress on food production (IAASTD)
  • Essex University study of 286 projects in 57 countries found that agro-ecology achieved average production increases of 79% per ha  (117% in Sub-Saharan Africa)

PAN International recently published a book highlighting the opportunities for replacing hazardous pestcides with agro-ecological approaches. It contrains loads of case studies and practical examples and can be downloaded fro free here:

One of teh case studies looked at the effectiveness of a yeast and sugar based "food spray" beneficial insect attractant on smallholder cotton.  This technique developed over the past ten years by PAN UK and the Australian Cotton Research Institute has seen smallholder organic yields grow dramatically so they are within touching distance of conventional cotton.  Costs are much lower and therefore cotton profitability is much higher (see table below).


yield (kg/ha)

price (FCFA/kg)

 Revenue (FCFA)

Input costs

Gross margin (FCFA)

Organic cotton & Benin food spray

805.00 ± 87.77




125,340± 533

Organic cotton & Neem

562.00 ± 86.38




80,248 ± 896

Conventional cotton

1,145.00 ± 78.67




89,450 ± 412

Untreated control

17.00 ± 15.67




968 ± 250

Mensah, et al. 2011

But the important thing is farmer training.  these aprpoaches rely on well trained farmers working with a well developed integrated pest management system.  Good training gives good results.

March 22, 2016 17:28

Muy buenas tardes a todos,


Efectivamente el uso excesivo e indiscriminado de fertilizantes y pesticidas ha venido generando deterioro en los suelos, desequilibrio en los ecosistemas naturales y contaminación de las napas freaticas. Muchos años se han venido probando tecnologías como el Manejo Integrado de Plagas (MIP), Manejo Ecológico de Suelos (MEP), en ambos casos se tiene un uso "racional" de insumos químicos, sin embargo no es la solución eficiente a los problemas en el desequilibrio de los ecosistemas, siendo que los agroquimicos eliminan a los insectos benéficos (controladores de otros insectos plaga) y la "plaga". El uso de herbicidas de igual manera elimina las hierbas buenas y las "malas", que en ambos casos estas pueden ser hospederos de Controladores biológicos.

Se percibe que el cambio en la agricultura convencional está dada en la mentalidad del productor, que se acostumbró a que la eficiencia del producto sea inmediata y por otro lado, las empresas comercializadoras de estos insumos "amarran" a los productores con líneas de crédito en Semillas e Insumos. Considerando estos factores determinantes en el uso de Agroquímicos, se puede pensar en desarrollar productos biológicos, técnicas de control de "malezas" como el uso de coberturas, mulch, o asociación de cultivos (evitando el monocultivo) y sobre todo desarrollar un sistema que incorpore profesionales especializados para la transferencia y uso de estas técnicas, apoyandose en la demanda de alimantos saludables.

Hace un tiempo atrás, hemos implementado una empresa especializada en Biotecnología que desarrolla productos en nuestro laboratorio específicos para el control de plagas y enfermedades (estos productos estan desarrollados en base a microorganismos benéficos). Dichos productos son desarrollados "traje a medida" para cada tipo de plaga o enfermedad. Actualmente ya han sido probados en diferentes condiciones ambientales y en diferentes tipos de plagas y enfermedades con un resultado muy alentador. Estos productos ya los tenemos de forma comercial y estan en el mercado. Los microorganismos empleados para el control de plagas y enfermedades, en ningún caso pueden convertirse en Patógenos, ya que son autoregulados y contribuyen a reestablecer y fortalecer la microfauna de los ecosistemas ya que son parte de ella.

Los productos estan siendo desarrollados pensando que esta es una ALTERNATIVA LIMPIA al uso de agroquímicos y fertilizantes, los profesionales que realizan la transferencia de tecnología son especializados en las áreas específicas y en los temas de desarrollar una agricultura saludable para ofrecer alimentos saludables.

Espero que estos aportes puedan apoyar a la busqueda de soluciones al uso de agroquimicos.

March 23, 2016 22:48

[translation of contribution by Vicente Eguez Camacho / 23.03.2016]

Good afternoon everybody,

Indeed the excessive and indiscriminated use of fertilizers and pesticides has generated deterioration in soil, imbalance in natural ecosystems and contamination of groundwater. For many years now, technologies such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM), Ecological Soil Management (MEP) have been tested/used and in all cases there is a "rational" use of chemical inputs, however that's not an efficient solution to the problem of an imbalanced ecosystem, because  besides eliminating the plague, the agrochemicals eliminate "benefic" insects (which control plagues). The use of herbicides removes good herbs and removes "bad" herbs, and in both cases these can be the host of biological 'controllers'.

It is perceived that the change in conventional agriculture is given in the mentality of the producer, who is used to see immediate efficiency of the product, and on the other hand, the traders of these inputs "tie" producers with credit lines of seeds and supplies. Considering these issues in the use of agrochemicals, one can think about developing biological products and control techniques such as the use of 'covers', mulch or crop association (avoiding monoculture) and especially developing a system that incorporates specialized professionals for the transfer and use of these techniques, based on the demand for healthy foods.

Some time ago, we started a company  with specialized biotechnology that develops specific products in our laboratory for the control of plagues and diseases (these products are developed based on beneficial microorganisms). These products "tailor made" for each type of plague or disease. The products have been already tested under different environmental conditions and different types of pests and diseases with a very encouraging result. These products are already available in the market. The Microorganisms used for the control of plagues and diseases, in no case can become Pathogens, as they are self-regulated and contribute to restore and strengthen the microfauna of ecosystems as they are part of it.

The products are being developed thinking that this is a clean alternative to the use of agricultural chemicals and fertilizers, the professionals that are doing this transference of technology are specialized in specific areas, and also specialized in issues related to developing healthy agriculture for a healhty.

I hope these contributions can support the search for solutions to the use of agrochemicals.

April 07, 2016 10:32

Thank you Vincente for sharing your experiences in this practical example. Do you have any documentation or links to more details on this approach and the product, that you can share with us?

April 07, 2016 17:24

Thank you very much for these valuable contributions.

Regarding farmer training being a key element - does anybody have experience with using mobile phone / text messages as a farmer support tool or training tool? Not so much to substitute the Farmer Field School approach, but to keep people up-to-date, as follow up to the basic training sessions or simply as a way to respond to technical questions raised by farmers?

March 24, 2016 15:55

Hi Marjoleine!

Hope all is well since we last spoke ( must have been at least 6 months ago now!).

WeFarm has recently launched a few projects using WeFarm as a tool to support farmer-training initiatives in Peru. We've partnered with NGOs and organisations that are providing farmer training to help them scale and measure the impact of their interventions. We initially signed up the farmers they work on a specific code on WeFarm; this unique code facilitates tracking of farmers that have registered with this code on our system and makes it possible for us to provide our partners with:

- a platform to communicate and share information with all the farmers that have signed up via their code

- regular reports into these farmers' interactions with the system, including insights into their needs, requirements and challenges

Once participating farmers were signed up to WeFarm, we were able to start sending them weekly SMS with training information on behalf of our partners. Not only do participating farmers receive weekly SMS training support, but they also benefit from peer-to-peer support: our Q&A platform means farmers can ask questions about the training received and share best practices with the wider group.  Because we can track farmers’ interactions with the system, we’ve also been providing our partners with regular information to measure and improve the impact of their training: What are the most discussed issues? What’s going well? What’s not going so well? What are farmers struggling with? What needs to be improved etc?

As a reminder, WeFarm is a peer-to-peer network that enables farmers to share agricultural information via SMS. Farmers without access to Internet can now text questions about problems they are having on their farm, and receive crowd-sourced answers from other farmers, straight to their mobile phones. We currently have over 51,000 users across Peru, Kenya and Uganda.

Please feel free to contact me if you wish to discuss this further!




March 28, 2016 11:36

Thank you Amy for sharing this experience - and yes, all is well. Regarding the content of the training and exchanges, can you share most discussed topics? to give people a feel for the content that is shared through WeFarm + stimulate people to contact you.

April 09, 2016 09:37

Re support for farmer training, I strongly agree with Indira’s comments about the need for practical guidance, experience sharing and lessons from context-specific situations and support on how to try IPM and agroecological methods out with farmer groups and managers of large farms.  There is a lot of technical info on crop-specific IPM available but much is not in a readily usable form for farmers or field agents or is too generic and needs refining/adapting to local conditions. It rarely mentions economic aspects.

In PAN UK’s project with 4C Association on Growing Coffee without Endosulfan (kindly funded by FAO, IDH’s Sustainable Coffee Program and ISEAL) we found it useful to look at the pros and cons of different IPM methods, including chemical control, for Coffee Berry Borer, by asking the farmers and technical staff we interviewed this simple set of questions:

  • How effective is method x in controlling this pest?
  • How much does it cost?
  • How much labour time does it need?
  • How easy is it to implement?
  • Does it need much training before it can be used?
  • Other key points about using this method?

The umbrella of ISEAL members and Sustainability Xchange provide an ideal forum to facilitate this kind of learning platform but there are some challenges to address:

  1. Funding/investment, because nobody has the time or resources to do this entirely for free! If every retailer and food/fibre company who sells produce sourced from ISEAL member supply chains contributed a modest amount, this could go a long way.
  2. Incentivising field practitioners and farmers to contribute their experiences- they are all busy people, dealing with daily challenges of farming, weather  and markets. They need to get something back from the process of contributing their expertise.

One of the key recommendations from stakeholders in Growing Coffee without Endosulfan was the need for a network of coffee ‘monitor’ farms in different regions and covering different coffee production systems and farm sizes. Field agents, NGOs,  supply chain actors, research institutes and universities could work with these farmers to compile detailed data on economic and technical aspects of reducing agrochemical use, to analyse for lesson learning. The network could also track trends and coordinate trials, on various sustainability issues, e.g. adapting to climate change.

PAN UK would like to see ISEAL members and their private sector and donor partners commit to setting up a learning platform on Highly Hazardous Pesticide (HHP) phase out, beginning with a few priority HHPs in 5-6 crops. We’d love to be part of this learning process. Employing more agronomists with experience in ecological pest management in standards organisations would also be good!

April 04, 2016 11:31

Thank you for your comment Stephanie! I wanted to jump in here and provide the link to the aforementioned resources on Growing Coffee without Endosulfan, as they are currently available in the SustainabilityXchange Library.

URL link:

April 04, 2016 14:02

Hello again. I’d also like to share some experiences on policy aspects and involving stakeholders. PAN UK’s joint project on Phasing out HHPs in Costa Rica (kindly funded by the UN’s SAICM Quick Start Program) with the Regional Institute for Research on Toxic Substances (IRET) at the National University is making excellent progress under the coordination of Fernando Ramirez and his team.  The focus is to identify which HHPs  are in use in Costa Rica, then take some first steps in phasing out a few priority ones, in coffee and pineapple production.  Activities in the first 9 months have: 

  • engaged with the National Committee on Toxic Chemicals Management for policy influence, meeting officials in Ministries of Environment, Health & Agriculture, plus the farming sector
  • made an inventory from government pesticide import data on which HHPs are used, formulated and marketed and identifying important data gaps
  • conducted pesticide use surveys with small and large coffee and pineapple farmers to identify priority HHPs for action and risky practices to change
  • raised awareness for different stakeholders about HHPs
  • begun trials on (a) biopesticide and botanical options for nematode control in pineapple as alternative to HHP ethoprophos; and (b) HHP fungicides used against coffee rust disease;
  • identified the need for exploring alternative weed management methods to HHP herbicides paraquat and glyphosate in coffee and pineapple


One very real obstacle to more uptake of IPM which I’ve found is often highlighted by people in developing countries is lack of approved, registered non-chemical products for pest management. Most certified supply chains require only products registered in the country of use to be applied so farm managers need to be careful about complying with this, even if it’s making use of much safer, plant-derived locally made pest repellent or anti-feedant preparations (neem seed extract is the best known example). Does anybody have experience of how farms can use such preparations in export agriculture without risking non-compliance with this requirement of GlobalGAP and most sustainability standards of ‘only national registered products’?

One concrete policy action to tackle this obstacle is to help fast-track more biopesticides, commercial formulations of plant extracts, pest pheromone lures and other non-chemical products through the national regulatory system. Some companies have done fantastic work on this, especially The Real IPM Company and Elefant Vert, mainly in the East African export horticulture sector, but more needs to be done in more countries, drawing on the lessons learnt by these companies and not trying to ‘reinvent the wheel’. Supply chains can play an important role in supporting the modest efficacy trials research and data submission needed to get a product registered in a developing country. Bringing farmer organisations into the equation would also help, because they can express end user demand for safer pest management products and put pressure on government officials and their elected representatives to prioritise registration of safer, non-chemical products. Extending availability and market demand for existing non-chemical products to more countries would really help in efforts to phase out particular HHPs in specific crops and support change towards agroecological farming systems.

April 06, 2016 12:05

Dear Stephanie - you pose an important question regarding experiences with locally made pest repellent or anti-feedant preparations. Unfortuantely I cannot give you an answer, but maybe others can. I hope people can share some experiences which would allow you to take this discussion one step further - maybe even at the upcoming ISEAL conference

April 09, 2016 09:46

Dear Marjoleine,

Most of the comments relate to pesticides. But I would like to make a comment on the use of chemical fertilizers. Our organization VECO works with small banana producers in Senegal (organisation Aprovag).

The production is GlobalGap, organic and fairtrade certified. Thus, on the right track. But the organic way of production causes also big problems regarding fertilization. The soil is rather poor and bananas are demanding a lot of nitrogen and potassium. While the climate is dry (irrigation with water from the Gambia River), pests and diseases are quite well under control. We try to fertilise with compost. But 20 tonnes of compost per ha, is quite a lot. Compost as a rather low content of nitrogen (+/- 1,5 %) and other alternatives are expensive. We can buy in Dakar organic fertilizers (imported from the Netherlands) at a very high price, but I doubt if this is an ecological alternative, although it is organic. In many African countries, there is a lack of organic material. How to solve this? We wanted to use chicken manure from industrial chicken farms to use in compost (not as manure). But this is also not allowed according to organic certification. 

My point is that purely organic farming is often very difficult and expensive in Africa, especially for bigger farms or coops.


Yours sincerely,


Leo Ghysels

VECO Belgium

April 11, 2016 12:39

Dear Leo,

Yes, that is almost a catch-22 situation. Any of the technicians / agronomists in the forum have a suggestion? And are there others who encounter economic obstacles like the one described by Leo? Found a solution for it or did you decide to stop farming organically..... 

April 14, 2016 19:24

I fully agree with the proposals related to the training of the farmers as a way to reduce the use of agrochemicals.


I would like to add one topic to the discussion: normally the necessity of using pesticides is closely related to the system of production adopted. Export crops are normally being produced under monoculture, and therefore are more likely to be affected by pests and diseases. Many farmers know (or knew) this rule, but it can be a little bit “forgotten” when intensifying the production “at any cost” in order to increase the income.


Therefore, I suggest to include this aspect in the training of farmers: diversity on the fields is a must when we want to produce sustainably. Diversity on the fields at the same time (association, intercropping, agroforestry) and during the time (crop rotation, “respetar períodos de descanso de la tierra” and agroforestry) has to be maintained and enhanced whenever possible.  

April 15, 2016 10:16

Dear all

This discussion will remain open, so please feel free to keep sharing experiences.

I'd like to point out to the upcoming ISEAL Conference (Washington) offers a great platform to continue these discussions.  To learn more about this conference, please visit Two of the moderators of this discussions, Frank Eyhorn and Gerben de Witte, together with members of the ISEAL Integrated Pest Management Coalition will host a breakout session during the ISEAL Conference on this topic, and we invite you to join and further discuss possible building blocks of a roadmap for pesticide risk reduction strategies.

Thank you for all your contributions!

April 26, 2016 19:59

Bonjour à toutes et à tous !

Cette discussion reste ouverte, n'hésitez donc pas à partager vos expériences.

A noter que la prochaine Conférence ISEAL (Washington) offre une excellente plateforme pour poursuivre ces discussions. Pour en savoir plus sur cette conférence, veuillez visiter Frank Eyhorn et Gerben de Witte seront deux des modérateurs de cette discussion ainsi que des membres de la coallition pour la gestion des pesticides «'ISEAL Integrated Pest Management Coalition » qui animeront un atelier au cours de la Conférence ISEAL sur ce sujet. Nous vous invitons à les rejoindre et à discuter des possibles éléments qui formeront « la feuille de route » pour les stratégies de réduction des risques liés aux pesticides.

Merci pour toutes vos contributions !

April 26, 2016 20:00

Hola a todas y a todos,

Esta discusión permanecerá abierta, así que los invitamos a seguir compartiendo sus experiencias.

Quiero hacer mención de la próxima conferencia de ISEAL (en Washington), que es una excelente plataforma para continuar estas discusiones. Para más información sobre este evento, pueden visitar (website en inglés).  Dos de los moderadores de esta discusión, Frank Eyhorn y Gerben de Witte, junto con miembros de la Coalición para la Gestión de Pesticidas serán anfitriones de una sesión de trabajo en la conferencia ISEAL, y les invitamos a que forman parte de ésta para discutir elementos que formarán el mapa de estrategias para la reducción de riesgos de pesticidas.

 Gracias por continuar participando!

April 26, 2016 20:01


*** Discussion Summary – Résumé de la Discussion – Resumen de la Discusión***

Voir la version française ci-dessous

Véase más abajo la versión en español


We have summarized the e-discussion "Identifying best practices for reducing the use and impacts of agrochemicals" in English, French and Spanish. Please find the summaries here:


Chère Communauté de SustainabilityXchange

Nous avons résumé la discussion en ligne "Identifier les meilleures pratiques pour réduire l'utilisation et les impacts des produits agrochimiques" en anglais, français et espagnol.

Vous les trouverez ici:


Estimados miembros de SustainabilityXchange

Hemos hecho el resumen de la discusión "Identificando buenas prácticas para reducir el uso impacto de agroquímicos",  en Español, Inglés y Francés. Para verlos, haga click en:


May 23, 2016 17:16

What happened in the ISEAL conference breakout session "Reducing the Use and Impact of Agrochemicals"

At the ISEAL Global Sustainability Standards Conference 2016, in Washington DC, USA, we’ve held a breakout session on the topic of agrochemicals. The goal of this session was to build upon the discussion on this platform, and further develop building blocks for pesticide risk reduction.

In the session, the outcomes of the online discussions were presented, focusing on three main areas of addressing the negative impacts of agrochemicals: 1) developing and implementing alternatives and new technologies, 2) farmer capacity building and learning and exchange activities, and 3) improving the enabling policy environment (see the summary document for more detail).

Next to that, the ISEAL IPM Coalition, consisting of eight sustainability standards that are aligning on this topic, presented themselves and their objectives and activities. The coalition is currently developing an online pesticide database, which will give insight into the different (active ingredients of) pesticides, by which standards they are banned, and possible alternatives. The wiki-like database should become a platform for knowledge exchange, and will be hosted on the SustainabilityXchange website.

One of the standards within the IPM Coalition, the Better Cotton Initiative, presented the Toxic Load Indicator that they’ve developed. The Toxic Load Indicator is a tool that not only calculates the amount of toxic substances in a product, but also takes into account the toxicity of the substances. As such, the indicator gives insight into the extent to which a product is toxic to humans and the environment, and serves as both a reporting tool on the progress of toxic load reduction, as well as a learning tool for informed decision making on pesticide selection.

After these presentations, participants shared their questions and comments, based on which the following additional building blocks have been identified:

  • Provide farmers with guidance on application methods (e.g. from calendar spraying to threshold spraying).
  • Guidance to farmers on worker health risk management and the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Before banning certain pesticides, one has to look at the alternatives available to farmers and their (cost) effectiveness and possible detrimental effects.
  • The disposal of used pesticide containers is often overlooked, and poses a real threat to humans and the environment. It was suggested that a system could be set up in which suppliers of pesticides recollect empty containers.
  • Improved risk management for farmers, e.g. by introducing crop insurance schemes. Liability insurance fees could be reduced if less hazardous agrochemicals are used.

All building blocks, included the additions above, can be found in the pictures below this post.

With these additions to the building blocks, we are coming to a more complete overview of pesticide risk reduction strategies. We invite you to respond on these additions, as well as the summary document of the online discussion, and to further share your knowledge and experiences.

Frank Eyhorn & Gerben de Witte


Building blocks: Practices and Technologies

Building blocks: Capacity Building

Building blocks: Enabling Policy Environment

June 08, 2016 16:13