Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 14: Education for Action: Community Pesticide Activities

Community education activities can help people learn how to protect themselves and their community from pesticide poisoning. The Body Mapping activity can help people share their experiences of how they are hurt by pesticides. The Drawing for Discussion activity can help people begin to talk about pesticide safety. And the Drawing Pesticide Solutions activity can help a group start working toward solutions to pesticide problems.

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Community Organizing: A Story from Bangladesh

A group of farmers in Bangladesh started a program to talk about what pesticides they used and who they bought them from. Their goals were to practice pesticide safety and to save money on their farms.

They found out that their local bank was working with the large agribusiness company Monsanto. The bank and the company made a partnership so that loans from the bank could only be used to buy products from Monsanto. This would force small farmers to use pesticides and seeds made by Monsanto, and would not allow them to take loans to buy other things like draft animals or organic seeds.

When these farmers found out about the partnership between Monsanto and the local bank, they organized their communities to speak out.

The farmers protested at the bank and refused to take out new loans. After many protests, the bank stopped working with Monsanto.

Pesticide education activities

Once the community is engaged in a discussion of the problems caused by pesticides, you can organize group activities to learn more. The activities below can be useful to help the community learn the causes of many pesticide problems, and to begin working towards solutions.

Body mapping

This activity can help people share their experiences of how pesticides affect them. By drawing an outline of a body and marking where they have been affected by pesticides (a body map), people can begin to discuss common dangers they face in their work. This is a drawing activity and a group discussion.
Time: 1 to 2 hours
Materials: Large drawing paper, pens or pencils, tacks or tape

A woman draws a large outline of a body.
Step 1. Make a large body drawing
If you have sheets of paper that are as large as a person, one person can lie down on the paper while another person traces her outline. Next tape or tack the drawing to the wall so that everyone can see it. If you want you can make two drawings — one for the front of the body and one for the back of the body.

Step 2. Use the drawings to show what parts of our bodies are affected by pesticides.
Each person in the group marks an “X” on a part of the body where he or she has been affected by pesticides. If the group is small, each person can say out loud what the health effect was. For example, was it stomach pain, skin rashes, dizziness? She might also say what caused the health effect. Was it a spill, a mixing accident, drift, just normal work, or something else?

If the group is large, it may be easier for one person to guide the discussion of health effects. After everyone makes their marks, the activity leader can point to each mark and ask what effect the mark represents. The important thing is that people use the drawing to show their own experience of being affected by pesticides.

Step 3. Group talk
The activity leader can ask questions to help people talk about pesticides. (It can be helpful for another person to take notes on a large sheet of paper that everyone can see.) The talk may be most useful if it is limited to 3 main questions, such as: What effects have people felt from pesticides? What activities or kinds of exposure have caused the effects? What pesticides have caused the effects?

The talk may show how many people suffer from the same problems with pesticides. The body map shows where people feel the harmful effects of pesticides. The discussion and the notes are a good way to record people’s experiences and show what exposures are most common, in order to prevent these exposures.

Pictures are useful for starting discussions. The picture below can be used in a group activity to talk about how people are harmed by pesticides.

Drawing for Discussion: How do pesticides enter the body?

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  • In what ways could this man be harmed by what he is doing?
  • What can he do to protect himself?
  • Who else may be affected by his actions?
  • What are some reasons why he is not doing everything he can to protect himself?


If people are already aware that pesticides are harmful, this activity will help them think up solutions. It is helpful to have one person lead the activity.

Time: 2 to 3 hours.
Materials: drawing paper, colored pens or pencils, tacks or tape.

Step 1. Talk about pesticide problems
Discuss common ways that people in the community come in contact with pesticides.
Step 2: Drawing pesticide problems
Each person draws a picture of one way that people are exposed to pesticides. These pictures are then taped or tacked to a wall. The group then looks at the drawings and decides on the 3 to 5 most common problems they see there. Next, the group begins to talk about what might cause these problems. What makes these problems so common? Why are they so difficult to overcome?

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Step 3: Drawing solutions
In groups, people discuss possible solutions and draw pictures of their ideas. For example, if the problem is exposure from leaking backpack sprayers, short-term solutions include fixing the leaks and wearing protective clothing. Long-term solutions might include buying new equipment or changing to organic farming. A group might draw any or all of these solutions. Often a solution will solve more than one problem.

Tape or tack the solution drawings to another wall.

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Step 4: Talk about solutions
Talk about the different solutions that people drew. Which solutions can be achieved soon? Which solutions will take longer to achieve? The drawings can be re-arranged so that the most practical short-term solutions are at the top. Talk about how to achieve these solutions and work toward the longer term solutions too. Organize groups to make these solutions happen!