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Citation Information

Type Conference Paper - Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces Conference
Title The unintended consequences of agricultural input intensification: Human health implications of agro-chemical use in Sub-Saharan Africa
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
City Addis Ababa
Country/State Ethiopia
URL http://barrett.dyson.cornell.edu/files/papers/Sheahan Barrett Goldvale - SSA agrochem and human​health paper - STAARS 2015 conference.pdf
While agro-chemicals, like pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides, are often promoted as inputs
that increase agricultural productivity by limiting a range of nuisance pests that cause pre-harvest losses,
their use may not be without negative human health and labor productivity implications. We explore the
relationship between agro-chemical use and the value of crop output at the plot level and a range of
human health outcomes at the household level using nationally representative panel survey data from four
Sub-Saharan African countries where more than ten percent of main season cultivators use agrochemicals.
We find a positive gain in the value of harvest from using agro-chemicals, with similar
magnitudes across three of the four countries under study, but also increases in costs associated with
human illness, including increased health expenditures related to illness and time lost from work due to
sickness in recent past. We motivate our empirical work with a simple dynamic optimization model that
clearly shows the role that farmer understanding of these feedbacks can play in optimizing the use of
agro-chemicals, which underscores the role of agricultural and public health extension as modern input
intensification proceeds in the region.

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