Contamination of vegetables with foodborne pathogens and spoilage organisms results in foodborne illness and economic losses. This problem is worldwide, but is particularly serious in Central American countries that are already fighting problems due to poor nutrition and poverty. Despite the potential magnitude of the problem, small-scale Latin American farmers are generally unaware of these hazards and losses and how these risks can be prevented. The lack of awareness of these risks (and potential benefits realized by their control) complicates communication efforts on the subject and hinders the sustained adoption of safe agricultural practices in horticultural production.
This hypothesis of this project is that established social networks provide an effective and efficient venue to communicate vegetable microbial contamination information and promote management changes to improve produce safety and quality.
Led by Jeffrey LeJeune of the Ohio State University, this international team tests this hypothesis using several social networks (greenhouse associations, organic production associations, health clinics, schools, and traditional extension outreach programming) to communicate food safety and quality messages. These networks are particularly relevant as they are expected to include a large proportion of female farmers. Increases in awareness among farming communities in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua will be measured. Successful pathways of communication will be expanded and adoption of food safety practices assessed.
Upon completion of these participatory research and outreach activities, accomplishments include:
- decreased food contamination
- improved farmer health and produce quality among participants
- increased economic viability for farmers through new opportunities for sale and trade of produce
- validation of a model system for effective delivery of agricultural assistance in Central American countries.
These methods can then be applied to communicate other important information to enhance crop production, microfinance, or additional nutritional education.
- Brochure from 2014 annual meeting: Reaching farmers through social networks (PDF)