The Spray Service Provider (SSP) Concept of CropLife
A Spray Service Provider (SSP) is a farmer who has received special training to apply pesticides, is directly linked to member companies of the local CropLife association, and who hires out his services to (fellow) farmers to spray their lands. This implies that untrained farmers will no longer handle pesticides, and that this application will only be undertaken by those who are properly trained and certified. CropLife Africa Middle East has developed the SSP concept to improve access to quality pesticides and the correct application of these, resulting in higher yields.
Pesticides can control pests and weeds that destroy crops, if used correctly. The use of pesticides on the African continent is extremely low when compared to the developed world. An important reason for the low use of agro inputs is that the input supply systems are inefficient and underdeveloped. It is therefore difficult to get good quality pesticides on time at a fair price, especially in remote rural areas. Added to the limited access to agro inputs, there are several challenges related to pesticides in Africa, including the irresponsible use of these products, unacceptable residue levels, the inability to deal with hazardous waste including obsolete pesticides, the sales of counterfeit and illegal products, the use of children and pregnant women in the handling of pesticides, and non-conformities of those farmers who are certified.
There is a need to improve the accessibility of good quality agro inputs in the agricultural sector in Africa and increase the safe and responsible use of pesticides. As observed in other countries, it is not enough to train agro dealers and simply link them to farmers. Although accessibility to agro inputs may increase, it will create problems concerning application, storage, transport and disposal. Because it is virtually impossible to train all farmers in pesticide and fertilizer application, CropLife Africa Middle East has developed a concept to establish a network of Spray Service Providers and create linkages between agro dealers and farmers directly or via SSPs.
When pesticides are only handled by those that are trained, the risk towards human health and the environment is greatly reduced, the correct pesticides are used at the correct time and rate thus ensuring efficient and effective control of pest and diseases, therefore increasing yields. The dosage of the products used will be correct, Maximum Residue Levels and certification requirements will be observed, the purchase of pesticides will be better planned so less obsolete pesticides will accumulate, and empty pesticide containers will be triple rinsed, punctured and collected leading to possible container management schemes. Because of the direct link to trusted suppliers, access to quality pesticides will ensure less counterfeit pesticides will be used. Therefore, an established network of Spray Service Providers will be highly beneficial.
The SSP concept is not just simply training farmers to become SSPs; the SSP concept consists of several
Step 1: Training of SSP trainers
The training of SSP trainers is the first step in setting up a pool of Spray Service Providers. A regional CropLife Africa Middle East trainer will train field officers of member companies of the national CropLife association (agro inputs importing companies) or partner organizations, who in turn will train interested farmers or others to become SSPs. The potential trainer needs to have a thorough knowledge on pesticides and this knowledge is tested with a written and practical test.
Step 2: Selection of potential SSPs and awareness creation in the community
Before the SSP trainers start with training of farmers to become SSPs, it is crucial to select the right farmers. From experience in several SSP projects in different African countries, it has been observed that a wrong selection of participants guarantees the failure of the project. Therefore, a list with selection criteria has been developed. To select the right farmers, visits will be made to the communities by the national CropLife association, in collaboration with the partner, to clearly explain to informal leaders, interested farmers, extension officers and other stakeholders, the SSP concept. In addition, during the meeting, the selection criteria are clearly explained. The final selection of farmers is done by CropLife, upon recommendations of the community.
Step 3: Training of SSPs
The selected farmer will follow a 4-day training program that includes topics on pests and pesticides, responsible use, and the application of pesticides. At the end of the program, each participant will undertake a written and application test to evaluate if he is capable of doing the work required of an SSP. Only those participants that succeed in both tests, will be officially approved as an SSP by the national CropLife association for a period of two years. Each approved SSP will receive an Identity Card which states the period of certification so farmers can easily recognize if someone is still certified or not. When the period expires, the SSP needs to undergo a refresher course to obtain reapproved.
The most active SSPs will be offered a one-day business training in which they learn how to actively approach clients, how to calculate their price and how to plan their spraying activities according to the season. More experienced SSPs are offered a course in Integrated Pest Management (IPM). All programs are facilitated using the training manuals developed by CropLife Africa Middle East.
Farmers will have the freedom to select their own SSP and change if they are not satisfied with the services they receive. This encourages competition among SSPs to deliver good service. Farmers will negotiate a price directly with the SSP.
Step 4: Linking SSPs to member companies of the national CropLife association
Each SSP will be linked directly to field officers of member companies of the national CropLife association to ensure access to good quality pesticides. It has been observed in previous SSP projects that as the trust between SSPs and farmers develop, more and more farmers will rely on the SSPs to purchase the pesticides. The linkage between SSPs and member companies will also ensure that SSPs can at any time contact field officers in case of questions or challenges with specific products.
Step 5: Equipping SSPs
Each SSP will receive a full set of Personal Protective Equipment, consisting of an overall, gloves, boots, hat, mask and goggles. Besides this, they will get their ID card and a ledger in which records are kept on their application activities. The records are checked on a regular basis and farmers are interviewed to check their
satisfaction with the services of the SSPs. In some projects, SSPs also receive knapsack sprayers and/or
bicycles to meet their work obligations.
Step 6: Promoting activities of SSPs
To make farmers aware of the services of the SSPs and the benefits obtained, these will be promoted. From experience it has been observed that the most effective way to promote these services, is to organize a graduation ceremony at which each SSP receives his ID card and set of PPE. The ceremony is normally organized in the community and all stakeholders are invited. During the ceremony, the SSPs are officially introduced to the farmers of the community. To give the ceremony extra weight and to increase the confidence in SSPs by farmers, a government official could be invited to hand over the equipment and ID card.
Other ways to promote SSP activities are by broadcasting radio jingles via rural radio stations, participating
in radio talk show, and the printing of posters and banners.
Step 7: Monitoring and coaching of SSPs
Having given each SSP a 4-day training and then expecting them to apply their new knowledge and skills perfectly is wishful thinking. Therefore, after the initial training, SSPs are monitored and coached in the field by staff of the national CropLife association and member companies. Field visits are conducted regularly to ensure a continuous contact with the SSPs. The national CropLife association keeps a close eye on all activities and collects data on how many farmers made use of the services of SSPs, crops that were treated, acreages sprayed, products applied, etc.
The key to success and sustainability of the concept is the direct involvement of the private sector through the establishment of a profitable business for SSPs and member companies. The SSP concept depends largely on stimulating market forces by linking the demand for pesticides and the application of these to the supply source. From the onset of the program, suppliers of pesticides need to invest in these linkages if they plan to participate in the project. In addition, farmers need to pay for the services of SSPs without subsidies.
CropLife was established more than 10 years ago in Africa and has activities in more than 40 African countries. CropLife has developed a good methodology to train trainers in technical aspects of pesticides, including responsible use, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), and anti-counterfeiting of illegal pesticides. As representatives of the plant science industry, it has immediate access to the latest technologies with regards to pesticides, regulations, etc. In addition, because the private sector is constantly involved in activities that benefit the sector, all undertakings are sustainable, opposite to projects that implement activities for a limited period only. The SSP concept was successfully introduced in Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria for cocoa and other crops, in Egypt, Ethiopia and Kenya in horticulture, in Malawi for cotton, in Madagascar for rice, in Uganda for several crops, and in Zambia for maize.
Rudolf Guyer, Director General/CEO CropLife Africa Middle East firstname.lastname@example.org