Creating awareness and responsible use of pesticides is important in protecting smallholder farmers from harm, regulators have said.
The regulators, led by Agrochemical Association of Kenya, Ministry of Agriculture, Pest Control Products Board and county governments are training spray service providers and agrochemical dealers on how to deal with misuse of pesticides.
Mr Okisegere Ojepat, CEO, Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya, stressed the need to partner with county governments, development partners and the agrochemical industry in educating farmers on using spray service providers in identifying and diagnosing pests or diseases.
“Two weeks ago, I attended the graduation of about 58 spray service providers in Vihiga County. These men and women will now complement the services of extension officers in enhancing plant protection services,” said Mr Ojepat during an agricultural workshop convened by Science Africa in Nairobi recently.
Consequences of not using pest control products
The number of interceptions in the international market of Kenya’s export products will also increase if there will be a stop in the use of plant pest control products, Mr Ojepat warned.
Kenya is currently on a 10 per cent surveillance on its exported beans. If the country stops use of the products, continued Mr Ojepat, it will not export products like chili, which is heavily affected by the false codling moth – a quarantine pest in the European Union.
“I cannot imagine Kenya without plant protection products. We need to educate the masses,” he said, adding that “banning pesticides ‘blindly’ would lead to loss of revenue from horticulture, which currently stands at Ksh150 billion in earnings. We cannot stop using plant protection products,” he said.
Petition to ban agrochemicals
A petition was launched in the National Assembly seeking a total ban on agrochemicals that have been banned in the Europe Union. The petition noted that some pesticides are classified as carcinogenic (24 products), mutagenic (24 products), endocrine disrupter (35 products), and neurotoxin (140 products).
However, the stakeholders noted that a ban on some of the pesticides locally, without science and facts, will stall crop production.
“Pests and diseases account for 40-100 per cent losses depending on the pests that are attached on the crop,” said Mr Eric Kimunguyi, the Agrochemical Association of Kenya (AAK) CEO.
“Kenya will be a net importer of food. The export market too will die. There will be a high disease burden as a result of no food to feed on. We will also lack indoor residual sprays or aerosols that control mosquitos leading to public health menace such as malaria incidences,” added Mr Kimunguyi.
Mr Kimunguyi said that Kenya is a country with diverse tropical conditions and temperatures that range from 20-30 degrees Celsius. This allows pests to prevail; hence, using crop protection products is inevitable.
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Kenya has suffered pest attacks on crops and other plants, leading to yield losses. Fall army worm, tuta absoluta, and the latest locust invasions could have caused a catastrophe without any intervention.
“We cannot stop the use of plant protection products since we live in the tropics. Pesticides are toxic if not used well. However, when used well, they are a very important tool in farming,” added Dr Paul Ngaruiya, acting general manager research, strategy and planning Pest Control Products Board.
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A ban on pesticides, therefore, said Mr Ojepat, “will make over 40 per cent of the country’s current production, crash, literally,” he said.
He added that banning the said molecules will hinder the country from exporting, noting that, “literally everything we export today, somehow we are using plant protection products, however minimal they are. Banning 262 molecules means that Kenya’s export will crash,” he said.
“We will be net importers of most of our foods, because currently, we are already food insufficient. Did you know, for example, that 98 per cent of the pineapples consumed in the country are imported? And that we still import some pesticide products from Tanzania?”
Funding crop protection
Mr Ojepat urged the government to allocate sufficient funds and resources to crop protection bodies to enable them develop robust systems.
“Treasury needs to empower the PCPB by increasing their budget allocation to enable them undertake research and develop systems. On one side the parliament is putting pressure on the regulator and on the other they are not allocating them money to do their work,” said added.
“We need to revive extension services to boost awareness creation on pesticide use,” said Dr Ngaruiya.
Dr Ngaruiya assured the public that PCPB has put strict measures to ensure that all pesticides are safe for use and in line with the policies required by the pesticide industry.
He added that the board is making more follow ups on regulatory issues because fraudsters are coming up with new ways to pave their way through the pesticide market with counterfeit trade alone resulting to between Ksh100-Ksh120 million in losses annually.
Agro-chemical counterfeit products stand at between 15-20 per cent according to figures from AAK.
“We have inspectors going round, if they find any product without a label, then they cease the product. The label has to be approved by the board, we compare the data that we have in our systems and once we are satisfied that the information is accurate then we approve the product,” Dr Ngaruiya said.
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