Proceedings of the FLICS Conference, Launceston, June 2001What is the likely impact of farmer training?
1Agriculture Western Australia, Denmark, WA, 6333.
2Agriculture Western Australia, Katanning, WA, 6317. Summary With increasing concerns relating to the use of pesticides by the agricultural sector, there has been a strong focus on providing farmers with formal training in the safe and responsible use of chemicals. The status of training varies in different states including being a legal requirement or voluntary participation to achieve certification. There has been limited evaluation of formal farmer training particularly in relation to impact on farming practices. A farmer training course has been developed to assist wool growers to implement IPM to reduce relianceon chemicals for lice and fly control. This course may provide valuable assistance for growers tominimise residues but formal evaluation should be carried out to determine the impact of such training.Keywords Training, farmer, chemical, IPM, evaluation Introduction
With increasing community interest regarding the high level of pesticide usage by the agricultural sectorand occupational health and safety concerns of people in rural areas, formal training of those at risk in theresponsible use of chemicals has been proposed as an effective strategy to address these problems.
The use of chemicals on farms has come under intense scrutiny in the last ten years and with theemergence of alternative non-chemical systems such as organic and biodynamic farming, questions abouthow much chemical actually ends up in food and the environment have been a major focus. Overseasthere has been increasing restrictions and controls placed on farm management including the legalrequirement to keep appropriate records and demonstration of specified skills and competencies beforepurchasing particular chemicals.
During the 1980s in Australia, several instances of product misuse resulted in the deregistration orvoluntary withdrawal of specific products including, Lucijetâ (which contained fenthion), dieldrin whichwas only registered to control black beetle on potatoes but was used for many other illegal purposes andJetamecâ (which contained ivermectin), which was registered as a blowfly jetting treatment but wasdiluted and used as a worm drench.
In Australia, the first restrictions on access and use of chemicals were introduced over 50 years ago. Thisrelated to obtaining strychnine to control feral animals on private land. Conversely, restrictions on the useof farm chemicals for general agricultural purposes have only emerged in the last twenty years.
In the last few years, there has been a developing divergence in legislation on pesticide usage in differentstates. For example, in 1996 in Victoria new regulations, under the Agricultural and VeterinaryChemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992, were introduced which required users of schedule 7 poisons andother specified compounds to first obtain an Agricultural Chemical Users Permit. Chemcert, a nationalfarmer training organisation, has provided formally assessed chemical training courses to Victorian ruralpeople to help increase awareness of changes in legislation.
In July 2000, the NSW Pesticides Act 1999, which contains stronger provisions than the previous Act,became fully operational. In parallel with the new legislation, a comprehensive chemical training programcalled SMARTtrain was introduced as a joint initiative between NSW Agriculture and TAFE NSW(Bourke, pers. comm.). Proceedings of the FLICS Conference, Launceston, June 2001
Currently there are four different course levels from a basic introduction to chemical safety through to aninstructor level with all being accredited with the NSW Vocational Education and Training AccreditationBoard (VETAB) and aligned with units of competence in the Agriculture and Horticulture TrainingPackages. Bridging courses are also offered for participants who have previous knowledge andexperience. Courses can only be delivered by registered training organisations (RTOs).
Other states have not moved as quickly but the general trend is for stricter legislation to be introduced inthe near future. This will place a greater emphasis on farmer training programs.
In addition, several surveys investigating the relationship between on-farm chemical usage and woolresidues have identified several practices that require a greater extension focus (Plant, 1995; Horton et al.,1997; Ward & Armstrong, 1998).
The Woolmark Company over the last three years has helped fund a national farmer training program, the‘Clean Wool’ course. Early course development was done in collaboration with Rural Industries andSkills Training (RIST) in Victoria. Over the past 12 months, Woolmark has worked with ChemcertAustralia (formerly Farmcare Australia) to develop new course notes with plans to promote the coursethrough Chemcert in each State.
Chemcert Australia is a national body that coordinates the National Farm Chemical User TrainingProgram which was introduced in 1991 by the National Farmers’ Federation and the Rural TrainingCouncil of Australia (Kent & Smith, 1997).
Chemcert was chosen as a collaborative partner for the ‘Clean Wool’ course based on several perceivedbenefits including:
• a strong training network in most States;
• courses complying with national agreed industry competencies and meet Australian Quality
• providing recognised certification which must be renewed every five years; and,
• being recognised by several established quality assurance programs. Course content and structure
It is recommended that the ‘Clean Wool’ course be offered as a one day training course to participantswho have already completed recognised basic chemical training. The main areas covered are;
Course assessment focuses on a demonstration of understanding and application of IPM principlesthrough participants developing their own property IPM plan. Training evaluation
There has been limited research on the impact of formal farmer training in Australia. However, somestudies have identified several interesting findings. A study by Kilpatrick and Rosenblatt (1998) identifiedwhy farmers preferred informal to formal learning experiences including being uncomfortable in acontrolled formal learning setting, and having a preference for independent learning where confidence hasbeen established in relation to the source and relevance of the information. Proceedings of the FLICS Conference, Launceston, June 2001
These results provide an insight into perceptions that may need to be changed to improve attendance atformal training sessions. The alternative is to develop methodologies that farmers prefer to achieve thesame objectives of formal training courses. This is a challenge for regulators, government extensionpersonnel and rural educators.
A further study by Kilpatrick (1996) demonstrated a positive link between participation in education andtraining and greater farm profitability through making successful changes in their business.
Other studies suggest that changes in chemical handling can be expected by those who participate informal training (Sunderland, 1993; Northey et al, 1995).
Most formal training programs (especially those that receive a government subsidy) require participantsto complete a course evaluation sheet at the conclusion. However these types of evaluations tend to besuperficial and relate mainly to the performance of the presenter and course materials, with possibly someprobing of the likelihood of participants to implement changes in the future. Only limited information canbe gained from such evaluations as to the true impact of a training course.
Further appreciation of the possible impact of a training course might be gained from the courseassessment i.e., score achieved by participants/number of failures etc. Again, this may provide anindication of a participant’s level of knowledge and skills (if a practical assessment is included) but doesnot predict the changes in on-farm management practices.
In order to be confident in the effectiveness of formal chemical training courses a series of evaluationsshould be undertaken including an assessment of changes in attitude and beliefs and ongoing changes infarm practices. Kilpatrick (1997) outlined the framework used when she conducted five interview casestudies of formal and non-formal training as part of a report commissioned by the Tasmanian RuralIndustry Training Board.
Surveys that have identified specific high risk practices which contribute to excessive wool residues(Plant, 1995; Horton et al, 1997; Ward & Armstrong, 1998), could form the basis for an assessment of theprevalence of such practices which could easily be incorporated into an impact evaluation of the ‘Clean,Wool’ course. Discussion
It appears that a formal training course offered on a national basis may assist State extension efforts toencourage the adoption of IPM approaches to manage sheep lice and blowflies and to minimise woolresidues.
The advantages of a national program include courses being offered by qualified independent trainingproviders, content and materials being consistent in each State, the opportunity for woolgrowers to applyIPM principles to their own enterprise and to receive recognised certification. However, some cautionexists as to the expected overall impact of formal chemical training particularly for medium to long termchanges in farm practice. This doubt can be addressed by determining if course participants implementIPM strategies several months or a year after undertaking the course. Conclusion
The ‘Clean Wool’ course has the potential to greatly assist wool growers to implement IPM strategies forthe control of external parasites and to subsequently reduce the level of pesticide residues in theAustralian wool clip. However, it is strongly recommended that a series of evaluations is conducted toascertain the level of effectiveness of the course and to gather information to modify the course asrequired. Proceedings of the FLICS Conference, Launceston, June 2001References
Horton, B. J., Best, D.J., Butler, L.G. and Gregory, G. G. (1997). Organophosphorus residues in wool grease resulting from specified on-farm lice and flystrike control treatments. Australian Veterinary Journal75: 7, 500-503.
Kent, J. and Smith, R. (1997). The role of Farmcare Australia in farm chemical user training. NationalPesticide Risk Reduction Workshop. BRS Canberra April 16-18 1997.
Kilpatrick, S (1996). Change, training and farm profitability. National Focus: a National Farmers’Federation Research Paper Vol 10, Nov 1996.
Kilpatrick, S. (1997). Effective delivery methodologies for education and training to rural Australia. Areport to the Tasmanian Rural Industry Training Board. University of Tasmania.
Kilpatrick S., and Rosenblatt, T. (1998), Information vs training: issues in farmer learning. European Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension 5: 39-51.
Northey, K., Officer, J., Fielding, P. and Cross, D (1995). National Farmer Chemical Users Training(WA) Evaluation. Report to the National Farmers’Federation and Rural Industry DevelopmentCorporation. Centre for Health Promotion Research. Curtin University.
Plant, J. W. (1995). On farm pesticide use and wool residue levels – a national survey. In ‘Proceedings ofthe Australian Sheep Veterinary Society, Australian Veterinary Association Conference’. Melbourne. (Ed. J. Cox) pp. 119-23. (Australian Sheep Veterinary Society: Indooroopilly, Qld.)
Sunderland, R. (1993). An evaluation of the suitability and effectiveness of the national farm chemicalusers training program in New South Wales. Charles Sturt University.
Ward, M. P., and Armstrong, R. T. F. (1998). Trends in the use of pesticides and pesticide residues on Queensland wool. Australian Veterinary Journal76: 10, 694-697.
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