Pesticide related danger haunts East Africa

Pesticide related danger haunts East Africa

EAST African countries have been cautioned against the impending pesticide related threat.

Scientists from various parts of the world who met at the Tropical Pesticide Research Institute (TPRI) for four days warned that unless urgent actions are taken, many people will be affected.

Ms Miriam Waltz from the University of Oslo said in Kenya the introduction of pesticides is associated with higher crop yields and less vulnerability to crop failure and seen as an important strategy to achieve food security worldwide and particularly in developing countries.

“However, there are increasing concerns about links between the use of agricultural pesticides and various detrimental effects on human health and environment.

There is scientific disagreement about whether there is a causal relationship, as recently seen in the case of glyphosate.

“While there is no scientific consensus on its link to cancer or other health effects, public perceptions of toxicity and its effects have led to court cases in the US, contradictory regulatory practices in the EU and increasing public concern around the world.

This includes Kenya, which historically has been the site of intensive agriculture and pesticide use,” she said.

The don unveiled that the use of pesticides in Kenya is intimately linked to imperial agricultural projects that encouraged production for export markets and gave rise to an unequal regulatory system that distributes risk and toxic exposure according to particular geographic patterns.

Ms Elina Andersson and Ellinor Isgren from the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS) in Sweden presented views on Uganda, saying that their findings demonstrated that pesticide use is far more widespread than common assumptions about sub-Saharan African smallholder agriculture suggest.

“In fact, our data show that majority of the surveyed households— 84 percent—use pesticides and there is no significant difference between male and female-headed households.

These numbers are considerably higher compared to the official pesticide use data for Uganda. “About half of the households have introduced the practice only during the past five years, which suggests that pesticides have recently become more accessible at the same time as crop pest challenges have intensified.

Secondly, farmers’ current pesticide use and handling practices entail substantial risk to human and environmental health due to lack of technical support and protective measures,” she said.

She added that majority of farmers don’t wear any protective equipment during pesticide application that is often done by simply using a basin and a broom to manually sprinkle pesticides on the crops–particularly among female-headed households.

Common direct health effects from pesticide use experienced by farmers include skin irritation, headache, throat irritation, dizziness and breathing difficulties.

“Farmers largely access pesticides through informal networks of retailers rather than licensed agro-input dealers.

This informal market is flooded with counterfeit pesticide products and sellers are generally unable to provide farmers with proper advice on product selection and safety measures,” she said.

Ms Signe Mikkelsen from the Department of Anthropology of University of Oslo, Norway, said that research done in Tanzania found increasing concern about the wider effects of chemical pollution on human health and increasing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer.

Ms Nadja Stadlinger from Stockholm University, speaking of Zanzibar, said challenges of pesticides originated from ambiguous legislation and ineffective institutional setup in combination with lack of capacity within the responsible governmental institutions.

“At the same time, the extension officers are estimated at about one to 2,000 farmers who often lack pesticide handling skills. The decision by the Zanzibar government to subsidise pesticides in this context to achieve higher rice yields is therefore highly questionable,” she said.

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