I-CASH explores agricultural safety and health in Argentina

By Brandi Janssen

Published on June 29, 2016

Although the mission of Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH) is to focus on Iowa farming, our model of collaborative programming could be implemented anywhere. In May 2016, I-CASH director Brandi Janssen, along with advisory board member Diane Rohlman and I-CASH affiliated faculty Matt Nonnenmann, spent a week in Rosario, Argentina, talking with farmers, grain co-op members, and extension agents.

Dr. Janssen talks with Nora and her daughter Jasmina. Their family operates a small diversified farm in Sante Fe province, Argentia
Dr. Janssen talks with Nora and her daughter Jasmina. Their family operates a small diversified farm in Sante Fe province.

The trip was precipitated by an earlier visit from Dr. Marcos Grigioni, a surgeon, farmer, and Agricultural Federation of Argentina (AFA) member who reached out to University of Iowa (UI) faculty about farm safety and health resources for Argentina. In 2015, Dr. Diane Rohlman, director of the Iowa Agricultural Medicine Course, secured funding for Dr. Grigioni to take the course and spend a week in Iowa learning about UI’s farm safety and health outreach (see related story). The trip to Argentina was funded by a UI College of Public Health Global Health Grant, as the college looks to expand international research and outreach partnerships.

Rosario, with a population of around 1,000,000 people, is in Santa Fe Province, northwest of Buenos Aires. Located in the incredibly productive Pampas region, this area grows most of Argentina’s soybeans and is home to an expanding broiler and egg industry. The region also has many greenhouse and horticulture operations. Blueberries, peaches, oranges, and sweet potatoes are particularly important products, grown for both export and domestic consumption.

Like many regions of the world, agricultural production has consolidated; farms are becoming larger and production is more specialized. As in the U.S., Argentine farmers use very large equipment and house livestock in confinements. As a result, they see many of the same health and safety concerns as U.S. farmers, including entanglements with equipment, grain bin incidents, and injuries to youth.

Speaking with the women's group at the Agricultural Federation of Argentina, a farmer cooperative based in Rosario
Speaking with the women’s group at the Agricultural Federation of Argentina, a farmer cooperative based in Rosario.

One goal of the trip was for the researchers to better understand how the AFA, a large farmer cooperative, could develop agricultural safety and health programming. Cooperatives are required by law to provide educational outreach to their members, and AFA employs an educational director, Florencia Doná, to oversee their efforts. As part of her work, she has regular meetings with a women’s group of about 100 members. This energetic group provides an important link between the co-op and its member families. During the visit, the women’s group evaluated materials developed in the U.S. and translated into Spanish to begin to assess their value in a cross-cultural setting.

Another goal of the visit was to identify potential local partners for health and safety programming. While visiting the U.S., Dr. Grigioni was especially interested in the collaborative structure of I-CASH and hopes to create a similar model in Argentina. During meetings with extension agents, researchers, and agricultural educators, the UI faculty asked each about their perspectives on agricultural safety and health in Argentina, especially the barriers to health and safety education and programming.

Argentine farms are family operations, with immediate and extended family members providing most of the labor. As in the U.S., farmers are proud of their agricultural production, but concerned about the long-term stability of their farms and rural communities. This introductory trip will hopefully set the stage for more meaningful collaborations that will lead to improved health and safety of Argentine farmers.

This story originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of the Farm Families Alive & Well newsletter.

Photos courtesy of Brandi Janssen