Public poisoning as ‘communication’ in Ecuador: Lessons from the perpetuation of harmful technology

[This post is part of an ongoing project of a book on project to study the challenges involved in communicating complex ideas. The objective of this project is to gain a greater and more nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities for research uptake among think tanks and policy research institutes in developing countries. This post has been written by Stephen Sherwood, Andrea Ordóñez and Myriam Paredes.]

By Flickr user Velaia (ParisPeking) (CC).

Shedding light on the role action-research can play in changing the way individuals go about their daily lives, this chapter discusses how research is used to create awareness about the harmful use of pesticides. Two communication approaches are presented: one that is top-down largely focused on communicating with policymakers towards new policies for a better society; and the other one of a grassroots nature – changing practices at the personal and community level. Which one can be more effective in creating change on the ground?

To consider the intricate relations between practice, communications, and policy, we will reflect on over a decade of action-research on the use and harmful consequences of highly toxic pesticides in Ecuador.

Beginning in the early 1990s, research on this issue focused on potato production in the northernmost province of Carchi in Ecuador –a region that has been described as “the model of agricultural modernization” in the Andes. Although this could be thought of as a positive description of the region’s agriculture, pesticides were in fact becoming a dangerous companion of farmers’ daily lives.

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