We believe that our campaign to have carbofuran banned in Kenya is on a positive trend bolstered by the fact that the Pest Control Products Board has for the first time agreed to discuss the recent reports on pesticide poisoning of birds.
However, we remain concerned at the extremely slow pace of response by our government to reports of pesticide threats to human, environment and wildlife health.We continue to demand that the government authorities take matters more seriously as seems to be happening in the developed world, and now in China.
According to this article in agra-net.com, China, one of the manufacturers of pesticides containing carbofuran that is used in Africa, has now initiated the process to restrict the domestic use of the same chemical.
China’s Ministry of Agriculture has taken new measures to prohibit the use of “high-toxicity” pesticides by restricting registration applications for 22 active ingredients, leading to an eventual use ban for ten of the ais in 2013. The measures have been taken in an effort to “ensure the safety of the country’s agricultural produce” and “help protect its environment,” the ministry states. Starting last month, no new applications for field tests, pesticide registration or manufacturing permits will be processed for the following ais: the insecticides fenamiphos, fonofos, phosfolan-methyl, calcium phosphide, magnesium phosphide, cadusafos, coumaphos, sulfotep, terbufos, methidathion, phorate, isofenphos-methyl, carbofuran, methomyl and ethoprophos; the acaricide/insecticides aldicarb, omethoate, isocarbophos and endosulfan; the rodenticide zinc phosphide; and the fumigants methyl bromide and aluminium phosphide.
On the face of it, this seems to be a good move from China and we applaud the Chinese Government for initiating this process. It is well documented that Evidence suggests that China’s farmers routinely misuse pesticides and fail to protect themselves. A ban on some pesticides will have additional benefits – because 58% of all suicides in China are conducted using pesticides.
A major part of the problem in Kenya is that so many agencies share responsibility for worker safety, food safety, and environmental and wildlife health.
The Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture manages the Pest Control Products Board which licenses and regulate the use of pesticides in Kenya. Their mission is
To provide professional, efficient and effective regulatory service for manufacture, trade, safe use and disposal of pest control products while ensuring safety to humans, animals and the environment.
Although WildlifeDirect has submitted numerous reports of lion and vulture poisoning, poisoning of fish, and poisoning of birds, PCPB’s annual report shows that only one investigation into pesticide poisoning of wildlife was conducted that year.
Finally, China has taken a responsible action by banning pesticides that threaten their people and the land. In Kenya, the Government seeks to increase the access of pesticides to farmers country wide in an effort to improve food security 20 – 50 gms) which makes the product more affordable to small scale and mostly illiterate farmers by packaging the products in tiny containers (small plastic bags with 20). A trader does not require any education or specialised training to sell pesticides.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to observe that Kenyan farmers generally lack health and safety awareness. According to officials at the PCPB, most Kenyan farmers do not read labels and although they say that protective equipment is provided, I have personally never seen a subsistence farmer wearing any form of protective clothing, or storing deadly chemicals in locked cabinets.
We maintain that by making pesticides widely available to a population that is unable to uses the products safely is negligent and short sighted. We are simply putting deadly chemicals in the hands of largely illiterate population who are not only using these pesticides in a manner that is dangerous to their own health, but to the consumers of the produce and the water consumed, as well as the environment in general including effects on fisheries, insects pollinators especially bee populations, and of course wildlife. This affects the agriculture industry in general as disease resistance grows, pollinators are wiped out and public health and productivity is compromised.
Most Kenyans still believe that the government has their interests at heart and that it makes decisions that are good for them. Well, perhaps it is time for Kenya to take note from the Chinese experience and follow suit by banning dangerous chemicals and removing them from the shelves.