Over half of the farmers (56.8%) had received training on safe handling and application of pesticides, while 43.2% had received no training (Table 2A). The observed results are consistent with the findings of Fianko et al. [20
] for the Densu River basin of Ghana. The relatively large cohort of respondents with no technical knowledge in pesticide use can be a major source of worry given the absence of farmer training has been found to further increase the heightened danger of pesticide misuse and abuse in vegetable production [21
]. The misuse of pesticide by the farmers can also endanger their health and that of consumers as well as the environment [8
]. It appears that even those who claim to have received some form of official training seemed to be still misusing and abusing pesticides in their vegetable fields. For instance, results from Table 2C indicate that most farmers apply the pesticide either at the sight of a pest and/or disease (52.2%) or according to crop calendar (45%), corroborating the report of Amoako et al. [22
As noted in Table 2E, pesticide mixture preparation for spraying were done mainly by shaking knapsack sprayers as represented by 47.8% of respondents or using a stick (43.8%). Some respondents (6.2%) however confirmed mixing pesticides with their bare hands. This is obviously unacceptable and disturbing since the farmers concerned will be directly exposed to the hazardous of the pesticides. As reported by Amoako et al. [22
], most farmers mix two or more pesticides together without considering their compatibility or active ingredients but rather rely on the perceived efficacy based on their trade names. Mixing of pesticides was encouraged by the farmers’ desire to have rapid knockdown of pests or the economics of managing both pests and diseases at a single spraying operation. This idea is however, questionable, at least as practised [2
], because the combinations used could be indiscriminate and incompatible resulting in ineffectiveness of the pesticides to manage the pests and diseases [2
]. This findings are also consistent with that of Biney [24
] who attributed the increase in incidences of insect pest infestation of tomato in Ghana to the practice of using indiscriminate combinations of pesticides, particularly of insecticides.
With respect to pesticide application procedures, the knapsack was the most popular spraying equipment used (88%), though a few farmers did use motorised sprayers/mist blowers (3%) and hand held applicators (4.3%) as confirmed in Table 3B. Lack of capital was the main reason for farmers’ inability to buy required equipments such as motorised sprayer, hence their intended use of knapsack sprayers. Over 17% of respondents were found not to own a sprayer at all.
In the course of the focus group discussions, some farmers without access to a knapsack sprayer reported using a brush, broom or leaves tied together to splash pesticides from a bucket as their means of spraying. Consequently, such practices expose users to the harmful effects of pesticides, especially as most of the farmers do not wear protective clothing when spraying.
Most farmers own and utilize a knapsack sprayer, yet the use of this type of sprayer in itself presents some danger to the user. According to Ntow et al. [2
], it is prone to leakage, especially as the spray equipment ages. Matthews have identified causes of leakage from the knapsack and have emphasised the need to provide better-quality equipment at an affordable cost that will be more durable in a hot and humid tropical environment such as sub-Saharan Africa.
Most farmers are adopting safer pesticide application practices such as spraying against the d wind irection, not eating or smoking during spraying so as to prevent respective potential dermal and oral contamination with pesticides. However, majority of the respondents do not display warning signs after spraying so as to prevent public or any member of the household from entering a sprayed field. This is not surprising because majority of the farmers even re-enter a sprayed field within 24 hours. This could be a major reason why pesticide poison is common among most smallholder farmers in Ghana.
The study further revealed that most vegetable farmers harvest their produce within 7 days after spraying pesticides with some harvesting their produce on the same day after spraying, thereby endangering the lives of consumers. Amoako et al. [22
] also reported that majority of cabbage farmers in the Ejisu-Juaben Municipality of the Ashanti Region of Ghana continue spraying pesticides during produce harvesting, hence no waiting period is observed, thereby exposing consumers to high pesticide residue levels. Residues of Chlopyrifos (Dursban), lindane, endosulfan, Karate and DDT have been detected beyond maximum permitted residue levels in samples of lettuce from major markets from Kumasi, Accra and Tamale [6
]. Darko and Akoto [25
] also assessed contamination levels and health risk hazards of organophosphorus pesticides residues in tomatoes and eggplant and showed that health risks are associated with levels of pesticides exceeding the recommended doses for these vegetables. Death cases resulting from consumption of pesticide contaminated vegetables have already been reported in some parts of the country. In early December 2010, the then Upper East Regional Minister, Mark Woyongo, announced that 12 farmers had died after eating food contaminated with pesticides, and that a further 63 had been treated and discharged from hospital [26
]. Personal communication with some consumers indicates that they are very wary of consuming vegetables such as cabbage and okra which they believe are contaminated with pesticides.