India is growing by 15 million people per year, putting it on track to be the world's most populated country by 2024. Feeding such a swiftly growing population means farmers and farm laborers need to get the most from their land. This means keeping crops safe from insects, disease, drought and weeds. Crop protection products help farmers to safeguard plants against these challenges and grow more good quality food, more efficiently. But used incorrectly, these solutions can pose a health risk to farmers.
BASF is committed to making sure that its products are used safely and responsibly. “There are two components that make a real difference to safety when spraying crops,” says Rajendra Velagala, Head of BASF’s Agricultural Solutions business in India. “The first is education and the second is quality, robust equipment.”
Since 2016, BASF has been working to build a culture of knowledge among India’s farming community. Running ‘Suraksha Hamesha’ (‘Safety at all Times’) workshops with the support of the Department of Agricultural Cooperation & Farmers’ Welfare, BASF has trained more the 85,000 farmers and spray men and women through this program so far. The workshops introduce the importance of following safety guidance at every stage of the spraying process from purchasing and storing, through measuring and spraying, to cleaning and disposing of empty containers, and this knowledge is kept up to date with virtual community support groups through Facebook and WhatsApp.
Sujatha, a farmer in Hassan, Karnataka, attended a training session specifically for female farmers. She commented, “My family’s safety comes first. Suraksha Hamesha has given me better understanding of the safety measures to be taken during spraying, and the importance of using personal protection equipment.”
Alongside the training programs, BASF has developed its Sanrakshan® Kit of certified personal protection gear. The kit protects the wearer’s eyes, nose, mouth and skin. Supplied at a low cost, this highly robust kit comes with a picture-book manual which shows the simple processes for wearing, washing and storing the kit so that it lasts a whole season.
“The Suraksha Hamesha training has helped me understand how to take proper precautions when using crop protection products,” said Subhash Mote, a farmer in Kini, Maharashtra. “I now use personal protective equipment whenever I spray, so that I can protect both the health of my crops and myself and my family. I’m very grateful to BASF for caring about the safety of farmers.”
To make sure that the whole community is involved, BASF is also taking the safety message into local schools. So far over 13,000 students across India have taken part, ensuring the next generation of farmers are aware and at the same time reinforcing the safety-first message in homes. “I shared the nine steps message from the BASF Suraksha Hamesha meeting with my parents,” reported Shivam Kumar, a student in Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh, “Following them will make farming safer for my family.”
“BASF is driving increased farmer awareness about the safe use of agrochemicals,” commented Purendu Majumdar, Assistant Director of Agricultural in Medinipur, West Bengal. “This is changing Indian farming for the better.”