September 4, 2009

Ugandan farmers reducing pesticide use

An Ohio State University program is teaching tomato farmers in Uganda how to cut their pesticide use in half while improving production, officials said.

Farmers in the Integrated Pest Management program get 2.5 times more money for their produce using traditional farming practices taught in the program, Ugandan farmer Matthew Ssekabembe said.

The four-year program, also in use in Kenya and Tanzania, was funded by $800,000 from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Farmers in the program are using a tomato resistant to bacterial wilt and local organic mulch, and are tying and staking plants rather than letting them spread on the ground, program director Mark Erbaugh said.

The healthier tomatoes have changed the mindset of vendors who previously believed the best tomatoes were those that had pesticide residue visible on the skin, the university said in a release Friday.

Extra income from the healthier tomatoes enables local farmers to live a better quality of life, said Ssekabembe, who farms two acres with his wife and five children.