In African countries, many governments encourage the use of pesticides . Protective measures should be followed by farm workers to protect themselves from contamination during handling pesticides . In this study, 335 farmers were interviewed to assess the effect of their educational level and health locus of control on their knowledge and behaviors about pesticides use.
The results show that among the total sample, the highest level of correct answers was about the ability of pesticides to reach underground water followed by awareness of negative effect of pesticides on health (93% and 82% respectively) which is contradictory to the results of a study conducted in Gaza where farmers had low awareness about the ability of pesticides to reach groundwater . On the other hand, the lowest percent of correct answers was about wearing long sleeves during spraying and time of re-entry to the field.
Higher education was significantly related to higher percent of correct answers in all aspects of knowledge. The difference was specially noticed in knowledge about absorption of pesticides through skin and all pesticides have not same health effects. These results confirmed the findings of the earlier studies indicating that there are a significant relation between farmers' educational level and their level of knowledge [19, 20].
Regarding behaviors related to pesticides use, most of the farmers (67%) did not read labels or instructions on the pesticide containers. A study conducted in Ethiopia found most of farmers didn't read instructions on pesticides packages due to illiteracy or they are just reluctant to read them .
The results show that 100% of farmers didn't use PPD which is consistent with the results of many studies conducted in many parts of the world [6, 13–15, 21, 22] and another agricultural areas in Egypt [16, 23]. The reasons for not using PPD among the present sample could be due to low level of knowledge about the safety measures, unavailability of protective devices at governmental agricultural association and their high cost at private sector. Hot weather was among the causes of low use of PDD as reported by studies conducted in USA .
Most of the farmers did not take a shower or change their clothes after pesticide application and did not wash their clothes used during pesticide application separately. The attitude of the workers towards hygiene and sanitation must be improved, and there is scope for the provision of better facilities and infrastructures. The majority of farmers disposed pesticide containers by using them at home or discarding them with usual trash which is consistent with the results of two studies conducted in Greece and in Gaza [19, 25]. In contradiction, a study conducted in Iran reported that more than half of the farmers sell empty containers for recycling, farmers in the present sample had no notion about recycling .
The percent of safe behaviors was higher among farmers who received school education which can be explained by higher level of knowledge. This is consistent with studies reporting that low education level limits the ability of farmers to fully understand all the health risks of pesticides and the importance of safety measures [19, 26]. Most of the sprayers regardless their educational level ate and drank during pesticide work. Similar behavior was reported in other developing countries [27, 28].
Regarding health locus of control, results reveal that the mean score of chance beliefs was much higher than internal or powerful others beliefs. These finding is similar to the results of studies conducted in USA [29, 30] where farm workers had externality scores higher than internality related to pesticide use and farm accidents.
In the present study, young farmers, farmers who received school education and those with sufficient income scored higher in internal beliefs. The differences in health locus of control scores across educational levels is consistent with previous studies [29, 31] which indicate that older age and those with less education reported higher external than internal beliefs. Health locus of control may be a step in the pathway between socio-economic status and health .
Farmers with higher level of knowledge and behaviors scored higher in internal beliefs which indicate that perceived internal or external control influenced individuals' confidence about their skills and planning ability . This finding is supported by the study of Vela Acosta et al. . where farm workers who had higher internal beliefs showed better pesticide knowledge and higher intention to improve their behaviors regarding safe use of pesticides.
The study has certain limitation as the response rate was 37% which may restrict the generalization of the results. However, as non- respondents were above 50 years old and there was no educational difference between them and respondents, it is doubtful that they had a safer pesticides behaviors.