Personal action 1

You CAN make a difference, and even save lives. These winners of the 2012 Volvo Adventure – held annually in Gothenburg, Sweden – are inspiring examples of how young people can take environmental problems into their own hands and, in an astonishingly short period, change lives for the better. Each winner offers simple solutions to universal problems and all are eminently replicable. How did they do it? Could YOU do it too? Read on…

Pesticide packaging in Brazil

© K. Eng

Brazil’s Grupo Escoteiro Tupinambás, a scout troop in southern Brazil, works with farmers on proper disposal of pesticide containers – a hazard to both the environment and human health. Their project won the Tunza Small Beginnings award for a very simple idea with a potentially huge impact. We spoke to the troop about their activities.

‘Over the course of two years, we saw empty pesticide containers and dead fish in the River Suzana in southern Brazil, which supplies water to two cities. We work with the source of the problem – the farmers – to teach them about the dangers of handling and disposing of pesticides and pesticide packaging.

‘Mishandling pesticides is common here because our agricultural economy is based around small farmers who do not really understand the instructions on the packaging. They don’t understand that empty bottles must be washed thoroughly, then returned to the shop where they were purchased. Instead, bottles containing residue are simply thrown into the river or over the fields, or used to store food and water. The farmers also don’t realize that protective clothing and equipment, including respirators, should be worn when handling such toxins.

‘So we print pamphlets explaining the dangers and proper procedures, and visit farming communities to explain them. We also produce plays for children, and use broadcast and print media, too, to spread the message.

‘More than 30 rural properties have adopted safer handling processes in the last 22 months, saving hundreds of improper disposals and improving health. We intend to keep expanding, and plan to partner with two other scout groups.’

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This post is also available in: French, Russian, Spanish