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Environmental Management

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 241–248 | Cite as

Knowledge and beliefs regarding agricultural pesticides in rural Guatemala

  • Roger Popper
  • Karla Andino
  • Mario Bustamante
  • Beatriz Hernandez
  • Luis Rodas
Research

Abstract

Throughout Central America, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School support a Safe Pesticide Use program. In 1993, a study of results was carried out among farmers and housewives in eastern Guatemala. Aspects of the methodology included: (1) participation of extension workers in all aspects of the study; (2) small, region-focused samples (eight cells, 30 interviews per cell); (3) comparison to control groups of untrained farmers and housewives; (4) a traditional questionnaire for studying acquisition of specific knowledge; and (5) a flexible instrument for building a cognitive map of knowledge and beliefs regarding pesticides. The cognitive map is a step toward applying modern psychocultural scaling, an approach already well developed for medicine and public health, to environmental problems. Positive results detected include progress at learning the meaning of colors on containers that denote toxicity and where to store pesticides. Pesticide application problems detected were mention by farmers of highly toxic, restricted pesticides as appropriate for most pest problems and of insecticides as the correct solution to fungus problems, and the widespread belief that correct pesticide dosage depends on number of pests seen rather than on land or foliage surface. Health-related problems detected were admission by a vast majority of housewives that they apply highly toxic pesticides to combat children's head-lice; low awareness that pesticides cause health problems more serious than nausea, dizziness, and headaches; and a common belief that lemonade and coffee are effective medicines for pesticide poisoning.

Key words

Pesticides Beliefs Knowledge Guatemala Health Farmers Housewives 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger Popper
    • 1
  • Karla Andino
    • 1
  • Mario Bustamante
    • 1
  • Beatriz Hernandez
    • 1
  • Luis Rodas
    • 1
  1. 1.Management Systems International (MSI)Washington, DCUSA

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