CPSP consultant Dr Dilli Ram Sharma shares two interesting stories collected from recent conversations with pesticide vendors in Nepal.
During study visits to the districts of Nepal, I recently met with pesticide vendors to hear their experiences and opinions on preventing pesticide self-poisoning in the community.
Two stories stood out to me.
Story 1: Intervention prevents act of self-harm
The first was told to me by Manoj Teli, a vendor from the Parsa district.
He described an incident involving a customer who he suspected was at risk of self-harm.
This is his story:
A young woman around 20-24 years of age came into my shop fully dressed and in make-up, like she was about to go to an event.
She came near me and said, “I want a pesticide.”
I was suspicious of the intent and asked, “Why do you need it? I cannot give it to you.”
She replied, “My father in law has asked for it from the village, I need to send it to him”.
I further inquired asking, “Which crop do you need it for?”
She said, “I need it for rice.”
This statement confirmed that her intent was false as it was the season of wheat, not rice.
I asked her to come inside, sat her down and asked her if she had any children. She said yes. I asked her what would become of her children if she poisoned herself with the pesticide. She cried uncontrollably. I gave her tea.
On further inquiry, I found that she had decided to ingest poison due to an internal conflict with her husband. I consoled her and sent her home.
She came back a few days later to thank me.
The vendor explained that in Ghantaghar, Parsa they have a policy of not selling pesticides to young women without confirming the intent. They also do not sell pesticides in the evenings.
He told me that if a customer claims there is an emergency for which they require a pesticide, the vendors ask to speak with family members on the phone to confirm.
These policies have been put in place to help prevent cases of poisoning in the community.
Story 2: Vendor confirms intent ahead of sale
In a separate visit to the Bara district, I got to witness first hand as a vendor confirmed intent.
I had been in conversation with the vendor, Suman Prasad Kushuwa, when our meeting was paused as a customer entered the shop.
I sat silently in the corner and watched the following scenario unfold:
The customer was a young woman. She approached the vendor and asked for a specific highly hazardous pesticide.
The vendor asked her, “Why do you need this pesticide?”
The woman responded that there were many rats in the house and she wished to kill them using that pesticide.
This however was not enough to convince the vendor. He told her that she didn’t look like a farmer and that he didn’t know for certain that she was buying the poison for rats.
The woman offered to let him speak to her mother who had sent her for the poison. She rang her mother on her phone and passed it to the vendor.
The mother assured the vendor that she had sent her daughter to buy the pesticide for a rat problem.
The vendor was then convinced that the woman was telling the truth and agreed to sell her the pesticide.
Although we cannot be certain that this is usual practice for the vendor, and not prompted by our presence, it is undoubtedly an example of good practice.
If every vendor was alert to customers buying highly hazardous pesticides and questioned intent ahead of sale, then this would minimise the risk of suicide from pesticide self-poisoning.
A note of thanks
Many thanks to the vendors who took part in the fieldwork and allowed me to tell their stories:
- Manoj Teli from Jaya Krishna Seed Centre in Parsa, Birgunj
- Suman Prasad Kushuwa from Kushwa Bij Bhandar in Bara, Jitpur
Dr Dilli Ram Sharma
CPSP Consultant (Nepal)
Dr Dilli Ram Sharma is an expert in agriculture field and former Head of the National Plant Protection Organization in Nepal. He is currently working as a consultant for CPSP in Nepal, coordinating ongoing work to reduce the number of pesticide suicides.