The paper presents the results of studies which investigated farmers’ reasoning and behaviour with regards to the mis‐use of personal protective equipment and pesticide among smallholders in Colombia. First, the research approach is described. In particular, the structured mental models approach and the integrative agent‐centred framework are presented. These approaches permit to understand the farmers’ reasoning and behaviour in a system perspective. Second, the results are summarized. The methods adopted allowed not only for identifying the factors, but also the social dynamics influencing farmers. Finally, suggestions for interventions are provided, which are not limited to a technical fix, but address the underlying social causes of the problem.