FOOD SECURITY

Blanket pesticides ban could cut food production - farmers

Horticulture industry players believe such a ban would largely affect the country’s food production.

In Summary

• A study found that 24 products used by Kenyan farmers are carcinogenic, meaning they can cause cancer while 24 others are mutagenic, meaning they cause damaging genetic changes

• Stakeholders in the horticulture industry believe yields from many crops stand to decline should the proposed ban on pesticides be effected

A worker at Mombasa show ground sprays pesticides in preparations of the ASK Aug 14 2017.
A worker at Mombasa show ground sprays pesticides in preparations of the ASK Aug 14 2017.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

Horticulturalists are opposed to proposals by an MP to ban the use of some pesticides on the basis that it has led to the upsurge in cancer  cases.

They said pesticides if used properly boost food production and their ban could be counterproductive.

They gave  an example Stem rust, also known as black rust, a fungal disease prone to warm and moist environments that affects wheat with infections leading up to 20 per cent yield loss if not treated with fungicides.

“We must see how to promote food security. Pesticides are not bad if used properly,” monitoring and evealuation expert at EU_EAC Market Access Upgrade Programme Andrew Edewa said.A fortnight ago, Uasin Gishu MP Gladys Shollei called for the urgent withdrawal of a number of pesticides from the market due to their harmful components.

This was after a report dubbed ‘Pesticides in Kenya: Why our health, environment and food security are at stake' revealed 24 products used by Kenyan farmers are carcinogenic, meaning they can cause cancer while 24 others are mutagenic, meaning they cause damaging genetic changes.

Others were found to negatively affect hormones, cause mental retardation in children and trigger miscarriages.

 

“Pesticides are created to kill insects and pests and improve productivity, rather than rush to ban them we need to conduct risk assessments for these components,” Society of Crop Agribusiness Advisors of Kenya chief executive Rikki Agudah said.

He said some of the products and compounds being mentioned in the proposed ban are present in many other items including disinfectants, shampoos and car fumes among others, making the ban far fetched.

 
 

The study commissioned by Route to Food Initiative, a local lobby funded by the German NGO, Heinrich Böll Stiftung found some of the active ingredients include permethrin, carbofuran, acephate, carbendazim, omethoate and trichlorfon among others.

Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya chief executive Hosea Machuki said a ban on these components such as permethrin- which is also used to treat mosquito nets, was not the way to go.

He said that the biggest issue was that farmers, especially small scale, were not adhereing to instructions and standards for pesticide use leading to harmful chemical traces found in produce.

In the report, researchers found that 35 per cent of active ingredients in pesticides were banned in Europe adding that the volume of imported herbicides, insecticides and fungicides had doubled in the past four years from 6,400 tonnes in 2015 to 15,600 tonnes in 2018.

Odewa however defended this stating that Kenya, being a tropic region provided a perfect breeding ground for pests compared to Western country’s necessitating the need for pesticide use.

Horticulture earnings hit Sh153 billion last year growing 33 per cent from Sh115 billion in 2017 making it the country's third largest revenue earner after diaspora remittance (Sh272 billion) and tourism (Sh157 billion).