Reducing pesticide risks to farmers and the environment in the Senegal and Niger River Basins

Project Overview

Certain risks to health, environment and agriculture are so pressing (e.g. adaptation to climate change, reconnecting with ecosystem services, and reduction in highly hazardous pesticide risks) that a new approach to education and the relationship between scientists, educators, and farmers is required.

We are developing a process that formally considers the uncertainties associated with pesticide risk to human health and the environment. This process drives data gathering, the development of new decision support tools and the design of participatory education programs that fully integrate farmers. This is leading to the formulation of new principles for risk management that can be used to guide education for farmers in developing countries.

This process has enabled us to explore the granularity in pesticide hazard and exposure, across a region that is highly vulnerable to adverse pesticide impacts in West Africa. In 2016, this program is poised to scale up to the national and regional levels.

This project was funded by: the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) International Waters and POPs Reduction Focal Areas (project 1420); by the Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station; by awards P42 ES016465 and the associated Analytical Chemistry Facility Core, P30 ES000210, and R21 ES020120 from the NIEHS, and by NIEHS Training Grant Fellowship T32ES007060 from the NIH.

Project Aims

  • Develop conceptual models for pesticide exposure and risk in the Niger and Senegal River Basins; determine vulnerabilities and uncertainties associated with characterization, and communication of pesticide risks.
  • Develop a participatory process that designs and tunes risk assessment processes and decision support tools to align with stakeholder-defined outcomes for risk reduction or elimination.
  • Conduct pilot, and larger scale participatory education programs with farmers to reduce pesticide risks.
  • Develop and deploy passive sampling technologies to determine the potential for aquatic and human exposures.
  • Contribute to national and regional policy development to limit impacts of highly hazardous pesticides.
  • Develop a more general model for research and education that supports adaptive risk-based decision-making.


We characterized pesticide health and environmental risks in 19 villages and 5 countries, and developed a new, multi-scale pesticide risk assessment system to provide farmers with the essential information that they needed to be able to understand and reduce risks locally.

Participatory program visioning and design processes were used in Senegal to guide a pesticide risk reduction program among vegetable farmers. Farmers used locally relevant information to construct reduced risk pesticide use regimes on their farms. Three and a half months after the education program, the pesticides that farmers selected reduced the average period of restricted entry by 10.9 days, compared with application regimes prior to education, and risk information had been shared with family and community members.

Novel passive sampling devices for aquatic and personal exposure assessment have been developed and tested, which provide a foundational technology for monitoring human and environmental exposures. Between 2 and 10 pesticides were detected in silicone wristbands that were worn by 35 study participants in a Senegalese Village.

Key Activities

  • IPPC, FAO and ENDA Pronat characterize the pesticide marketplace and pesticide use patterns in the Senegal and Niger River Basins.
  • Rolling analysis of vulnerability and uncertainty by IPPC and partners provides underlying context for development of risk assessment and communication tools.
  • FSES conducts analytical laboratory capacity building and undertakes pilot deployments of aquatic and human passive sampling devices.
  • Royal Society meeting in London provides a platform to report and publish the results of risk assessments, farmer field schools and laboratory capacity building.
  • A West African Task Force is established in a meeting at OSU.
  • Adaptive, leaner-centered education approaches are employed by IPPC, FAO and farming organization partners, to carry out pilot risk reduction education, and train facilitators in a novel risk communication and reduction farmer field school methodology.
  • Program scale-up throughout West Africa.

IPM Impacts

The site-specific and pesticide-specific nature of our analysis provided essential input to co-developed decision support tools for farmers, and enabled a participatory education model to focus on the key aspects of risk-based decision making. By adhering to constructivist learning theory, and following ethical practice with regard to the communication of risks, we have demonstrated that even the poorest farmers can modify their behavior, protect their crops, and also reduce pesticide health impacts.


Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Achieving Food and Environmental Security: New Approaches to Close the Gap

Open Source Papers in Royal Society Journal Issue

Multi-scale pesticide risk assessment in West Africa

Laboratory capacity building

Associated FAO farmer field school program in Mali

UN FAO Press Release about West African Farmer Field Schools and pesticide risk assessment

Senegalese TV news segment highlighting pesticide risk communication that builds upon our work

Oxfam America discussion paper that places our work in an agroecological context

Poster on silicone wristband pilot study

IPPC Partners


FAO Senegal



ENDA Pronat

Fédération des agropasteurs de Diender (FAPD), Senegal