Improving Health and Safety in Gujarat

On most farms in the Pavijetpur village in the Bodeli region of Gujarat, snakebites are a serious hazard, killing many farmers and workers. When a cotton farmer’s son was bitten by a snake, it could have been fatal, but he was moved to a local hospital and treated with an anti-venom injection that saved his life.

The son’s recovery can be attributed to a Monsanto team in India that put the anti-venom kit at the local hospital as part of a grower-safety initiative to increase field safety. The group distributed personal protective equipment and provided education on field hazards, including snakebites. 

Since 2004, the Monsanto human rights team and the India seed manufacturing team have been working on a child labor elimination program, resulting in a steady reduction of child labor in local cottonseed production fields from 20 percent in 2004 to less than 5 percent in 2007.  

However, the teams recognized there was more they could do to help.  

Due to farmer illiteracy and the fragmentation of farmland in India, many farmers lack fundamental skills, knowledge and equipment necessary for the safe handling of pesticides. 

The teams decided to extend their efforts to include grower safety initiatives to save farmers’ lives and improve health awareness. 

“The most challenging aspect of this project was implementing a comprehensive program in an uncontrolled situation of scattered fields and illiterate farmers who lack awareness on do’s and don’ts of field safety, compounded by the non-availability of first-aid or medical treatment facilities at  locations,” Y R Mohana Rao, Monsanto human rights lead in India, said. “In fact, this program is first of its kind initiated by Monsanto, thus no established standards or procedures were available.” 

The team distributed 4,000 personal protective equipment kits to growers, trained growers in chemical safety and hazard identification, and developed and distributed 18 anti-venom kits.  

“The proper use of pesticide reduces environmental impact and also improves the health status of farmers,” Rao said. “By providing anti-venom kits to address the local risk of snake bites, our program has helped save the lives of farmers. These efforts have inculcated a safety culture among grower community. Our combined efforts have facilitated increasing the awareness levels of the community at large on safety and health.” 

As a result, the anti-venom kits have saved lives, and growers are educated and relieved from post-pesticide spraying discomfort and ill-health symptoms.