Background information

Over the past few decades, there has been a growing concern that chemicals, while essential for virtually every aspect of modern life and the economy, can cause significant adverse effects on human health and the environment. Many countries lack the capacity to handle chemicals management issues and are in great need to develop institutions, legislation, knowledge and general awareness. As a response to this, the programme “Towards A Non-Toxic Environment in Southeast Asia” was initiated in January 2007. A second phase of the programme was approved by Sida from 2013-2018.

The Field Alliance is one of four major partner organizations involved in this project. The programme builds on a strong partnership with well-established organizations that together have many years of experience on dealing with chemicals management issues in the region. Implementing partners are the Swedish Chemicals Agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN-AP) and the Field Alliance (TFA). The geographical scope of the Programme is Southeast Asia and has a primary focus on the Mekong region countries. Partner countries are Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Regional activities under this programme sometimes involve other countries from the region, like Indonesia and the Philippines.

The programme’s overall aim is to contribute to reduce health and environmental risks from chemicals through better management of agricultural, industrial and consumer chemicals and sustainable intensification of agricultural production.

The programme considers safe food a “right” of all and not a privilege of a few. Farmers, their families and their communities have a right to live and work in a non-toxic environment and consumers have a right to eat food that is healthy and free from pesticide residues. To protect themselves, everybody has a right to know about health and environmental risks from chemicals.

Major achievements

  • Through FAO-supported season-long and short-duration Farmers Field Schools and Training of Trainers, more than 80,000 farmers (>50% female) and more than 2,000 extension workers have been trained in IPM and Pesticide Risk Reduction.
  • Science-based longer-term impact studies confirm that IPM adoption among FFS graduate farmers has led to a >50% reduction in total pesticide use; complete elimination of use of WHO Class I pesticides; reduced exposure due to less mixing of pesticides; improved disposal of pesticide containers and increased use of protective clothing. Member country governments, at both national and local level, have provided good facilitation and support for scaling of farmer training programmes.
  • Regulatory control of pesticides has been strengthened through capacity building interventions for pesticide registration staff, development of functional inspection and enforcement systems and updating laws and regulations pertaining to pesticide management in the member countries.
  • More than 20,000 students, teachers and farmers have been trained by TFA and local partners and PANAP, together with local partners, have reached out to more than 150,000 persons in farming communities through campaigns, mass actions and workshops.
  • On numerous occasions, evidence from the ground collected by programme partners have been used to influence national and international policies. Important examples are the adoption of a resolution on highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) at the 4th meeting of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM4) in 2015 and the formulation of a national school lunch policy in Thailand aiming at reducing children’s exposure to pesticide residues in food. Contributions and work by programme partners were instrumental in these processes.
  • All programme countries have taken significant steps towards phase out of highly hazardous pesticides by restricting and/or banning such products.
  • See more details in the final report at “Final progress report 2013-2019: Towards a non-toxic South-East Asia, Phase II