(PIA) -- It took an intervention from an outside group to break the silence on farm chemical ingestion in this Cordillera community.
Due to strong cultural practice in a community in Benguet where people refused to talk about and do not know how to deal with the matter, self-ingestion of farm chemicals had taken its toll with two to three cases recorded each month, recounted Dr. Ruth S. Batani, Director of the Office of Extension Services of the Benguet State University (BSU).
But due to a community-based approach, residents were motivated to open up given the appropriate information and learning. They now at least know how to handle the situation and put their efforts together. Aside from the new learnings acquired, they seek spiritual guidance by incorporating cultural practice led by community elders, Batani revealed.
As a consequence, cases of chemical ingestion which used to have two to three recorded cases per month from 2013 to 2014 went down, Batani said.
It all began when the research group from BSU, which Batani was part of, engaged with the said community in 2009. Batani said they cannot disclose the name of the area in the province due to ethical considerations. The vegetable industry contributes much to the economic wealth of many families in the area.
The group started with data gathering until 2010 which showed that chemical ingestion is common among 15-24 years old, 80 percent of whom were boys. Their research continued on through an ethnographic approach and immersed themselves in 2011 until 2013. It was more in-depth, an investigation of the kind of culture the members of the community have, Batani added.
Due to farming pressure to produce more, parents tend to ignore the emotional needs of the children when they seek for attention or help. So they go with their peers, have a drink until they engage in biting humour called “toknang” in the dialect, like parodying the power of the chemical. When they get back home, they ingest pesticides or other chemical inputs which are very accessible right in their own abode.
Batani explained that children resort to suicide to attract attention and a plea for help but not really to die, which in technical term of psychologist, is a wish to die. Emotional relationship matters such as heartbreak, attention getting, scolding of parents, she added.
Batani presented the highlights of the findings of their study entitled “Structured Silencing and the Self Ingestion of Pesticide as a Public Health Issue” in a forum on Suicide Prevention Campaign spearheaded by a youth group, Heaven’s Touch Care Group.
Earlier studies showed that availability of pesticides at home or at the farm contributed to the high rate of suicide in some farming communities. Susan C. Aro (EDT/SCA-PIA-CAR, Benguet)