Posted on: April 15, 2011 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

Farming and agriculture work affects female health, with pesticide exposure of crop sprayers, miscarriage and back strain among the top farming occupational risks.

South Africa has 14 pieces of legislation governing pesticide import, manufacture, sale, and use, under authority of departments of Labour, Agriculture, Trade and Industry, and others. Poor enforcement is one of the results.

Dr Saloshni Naidoo of the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal had assessed the impact of inadequate training in pesticide use on women workers on small farms.

“South Africa needs a single authority to control pesticides”, says Dr Naidoo. He found that only 60 in 800 female pesticide users had received relevant training. About 46% of these women are primary crop sprayers on a farm.

Only 18% of women crop sprayers had read pesticide labels, due either to language barriers or illiteracy. Pesticides are said to reduce weeding by up to 70%.

Farm children prone to infant death

Exposure to pesticides during the first three months of pregnancy is linked to spontaneous abortion. Women owning a small farm, working on a family farm, or working for more than 10 years on a farm, are linked to infant death of their children.

Muscular skeletal problems from carrying heavy loads, squatting and kneeling lead to 43% of farming women suffering chronic back pain.

Food prices up, profits down

African health depends on gassland, crops, stock, milk, meat, transport and basic supplies, but even these farming basics are under pressure due to financial and gender inequalities.

African women often lack agricultural inputs, resources, education, science, technology, market access, and policy access.

The African Union (AU) has set a theme for the decade of 2010 to 2020 as African Women’s Decade, seeking grassroots approaches to gender equality and empowerment.

The Gates Foundation program named Women Accessing Realigned Markets (Warm) uses community theatre to dramatise rural and farming issues.

Food prices are at highest levels in 20 years, according to FAO, but farming women do not see additional benefit. Access of women to agricultural resources could increase yields by 20%, the FAO had found.

PHOTO; Business resources like market access, product training, signage, personal protective equipmeny (PPE), and labour protection, do not reach most African women small scale farmers.

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