Accepted paper:

Toxic technology: a risk discourse on agrochemicals in Cameroon


Annika Witte (HORIZONT3000)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses the risk discourse on the toxicity of agrochemicals in Cameroon. It considers who the risk agents are, what knowledge they draw on and who they accord the blame. It looks at the activities through which the risk is promoted and that seek to regulate it.

Paper long abstract:

While risk discourses on agrochemicals are nothing new in Europe, this paper analyses an evolving risk discourse on the toxicity of agrochemicals in Cameroon. Following a relational and social-constructivist perspective on risks, this paper considers who the agents are that establish agrochemicals as a health and environmental risk, what (global) knowledge they draw on to make their case and most importantly who they accord the blame. Furthermore, the paper highlights the global connections that are visible in this risk discourse that bears resemblance to lobbying strategies of the international chemical industry. In Cameroon, it is not only environmental NGOs who warn of the risk of agrochemicals but also agents of the Ministry of Agriculture - a ministry that also promotes their usage. This paper shows how these agents seek to regulate the use of pesticides and herbicides through trainings and the activities of a "phytosanitary brigade". As this analysis shows, the major problem to them is not the use per se but the misuse. Responsibility for potential damages is attributed to the ignorance, laziness or greed of farmers. The paper is based on recent ethnographic fieldwork in Bamenda within the frame of the UrbanFoodPlus research project.

panel A29
Toxicity in the 21st century