Impact of large-scale, government-legislated and funded organic farming training on pesticide use: A cross-sectional study from Andhra Pradesh, India

Lindsay Jaacks*, Rajesh Serupally , Shweta Dabholkar , Nikhil Srinivasapura Venkateshmurthy, Sailesh Mohan, Aditi Roy, Poornima Prabhakaran, Barbara Smith, Alfy Gathorne-Hardy, Divya Veluguri, Michael Eddleston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Pesticides are toxic, destroying biodiversity and damaging human health. A dramatic reduction in pesticide use is urgently required but whether this can be done rapidly, at-scale is unclear. We examined whether government-legislated and funded organic farming training in Andhra Pradesh, India, reduced pesticide use.
Methods: We evaluated the impact of the Andhra Pradesh Community-managed Natural Farming (APCNF) programme, which aims to transition 100% of the state’s agricultural land (population ~49 million; 6 million farmers) to organic by 2030. We conducted cross-sectional phone interview surveys of 858 farmers (709 conventional, 149 APCNF) and face-to-face surveys of 38 pesticide retailers during August-November 2020. Multivariable Poisson and logistic regressions were used to estimate effects.
Findings: APCNF farmers had practiced APCNF for a median (IQR) of 2 (1-3) years. They were less likely to use pesticides versus conventional farmers (adjusted relative risk, 0∙65 [95%CI: 0∙57-0∙75]), although pesticide use remained high (49% versus 99%). They had lower pesticide expenditures (median [IQR], 0 [0-175] US$/hectare) versus conventional farmers (175 [91-281] US$/hectare, p<0∙001). Increased frequency of meeting with agricultural extension workers predicted reduced pesticide use. One in five (18%) retailers reported decreased pesticide sales; this was not more common amongst retailers reporting local APCNF training: odds ratio, 0∙95 (95%CI: 0∙58-1∙57).
Interpretation: Despite a major government drive for organic agriculture, about half of organic farmers still used pesticides and no impact on pesticide sales at local retailers could be detected. A combination of instruments, not solely farmer training, may be needed to eliminate pesticide use in agriculture.
Funding: Scottish Funding Council and UK Research and Innovation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Lancet Planetary Health
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2022

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