In September, two volunteers completed Pesticide Safety Assessments for the Farmer-to-Farmer for Agriculture Education and Training program in West Africa. Sandra McDonald traveled to Guinea, and Ples Spradley completed an assignment in Senegal. The purpose of these assessments was to ascertain and evaluate pesticide safety, regulation, training, education, and use in the countries. Both Sandra and Ples are members of the American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators, a group focused on protecting human health and the environment through education. Sandra is the founder of Mountain West PEST in Colorado and works as a pesticide safety educator. Ples works for the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture as an associate professor and extension pesticide safety education specialist.
Sandra and Ples are first time Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers. Each of them knew Farmer-to-Farmer by its reputation and were excited to volunteer when they were approached by Winrock. Sandra said, “I’ve always been impressed with Farmer-to-Farmer. Transferring knowledge and technology to the ground level is the only way to make development work.”
There were similarities in the things these experts observed. There is notable room for improvement in reducing exposure to and working safely and efficaciously with pesticides in both countries. The assessments and recommendations will have great impact on future assignments. Ples says that Senegal is “a country with a pesticide education program that has tremendous potential for improvement that could provide a dramatic improvement in pesticide safety for applicators, workers, families, and the environment.”
Sandra and Ples met with government representatives, pesticide dealers, and local pesticide professionals, however, they both mentioned that some of the best parts of their assignments were the time they were able to spend with local farmers, who they describe as gracious, thankful, and eager. Ples noted that they were technically proficient and was amazed at what they were accomplishing with limited resources. The volunteers both saw potential in the countries for establishing better standards in the use of pesticides.
Both Sandra and Ples were overwhelmed by the hospitality and rich culture in the countries they visited. Ples was welcomed to the home of Winrock Senegal Country Director, Ms. Mama Toure, for the celebration of the Tabaski holiday. Sandra had lunch with her fellow traveler, Guinean plant protection expert Mr. Oumar Bah, several times at his home. Sandra has a saying about travel: if she hasn’t eaten in the home of a native, then she hasn’t actually been there. Sandra couldn’t get enough of the rice with cassava sauce in Guinea. Ples loved the yassa in Senegal. It seems that both volunteers can truly say that they’ve “been there.”