Pesticide application practices, pest knowledge, and cost-benefits of plantain production in the Bribri-Cabécar Indigenous Territories, Costa Rica.Environ Res. 2008 Sep; 108(1):98-106.ER
The use of pesticides in the cultivation of cash crops such as banana and plantain is increasing, in Costa Rica and worldwide. Agrochemical use and occupational and environmental exposures in export banana production have been documented in some parts of Central America. However, the extent of agrochemical use, agricultural pest knowledge, and economic components in plantain production are largely unknown in Costa Rica, especially in remote, high-poverty areas such as the Bribri-Cabécar Indigenous Territories. Our objective was to integrate a rapid rural appraisal of indigenous farmer pesticide application practices and pest knowledge with a cost-benefit analysis of plantain production in the Bribri-Cabécar Indigenous Territories, for the development of better agricultural management practices and improved regulatory infrastructure. Interviews conducted with 75 households in 5 indigenous communities showed that over 60% of participants grew plantain with agrochemicals. Of these plantain farmers, over 97% used the insecticide chlorpyrifos, and 84% applied nematicides, 64% herbicides, and 22% fungicides, with only 31% of participants reporting the use of some type of protective clothing during application. The banana weevil (Cosmopolites sordidus Germar) was ranked as the most important agricultural pest by 85% of participants, yet only 28% could associate the adult and larval form. A cost-benefit analysis conducted with a separate group of 26 plantain farmers identified several national markets and one export market for plantain production in the Indigenous Territories. Yearly income averaged US$6200/ha and yearly expenses averaged US$1872/ha, with an average cost-benefit ratio of 3.67 for plantain farmers. Farmers applied an average of 9.7 kg a.i./ha/yr of pesticide products and 375 kg/ha/yr of fertilizer, but those who sold their fruit to the national markets applied more nematicides, herbicides, and fertilizers than those who sold primarily to export markets, suggesting a lack of appropriate application knowledge. Results indicate that the quantity of agrochemicals applied in plantain cultivation is less than that applied in export banana, but the absence of appropriate agrochemical application practices in plantain cultivation may pose serious risks to human and environmental health. Culturally appropriate farmer education and certification programs are needed as well as the development of safe-handling practices, regulatory infrastructure, and adequate agrochemical storage, transport, and waste disposal facilities. Long-term solutions however, are dependent on the development of policies and infrastructure that support non-chemical pest management, alternatives to pesticides, and the identification of organic plantain markets.