HEALTHY FOOD

Organic farmers urge state to ban use of toxic chemical

Promoters express cocnern of toxic chemicals which could be harmful to human health and the environment

In Summary

• Collins Othieno, chairman of the Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (Pelum) Kenya said they are concerned with the excessive use of agrochemicals, which could have negative impacts on human health and the environment.

• The lobby group urged the government to ban the use of glyphosate as a desiccator.

Cabbage farm in Trans Nzoia produced using organic fertiliser
PROMOTING ORGANIC FOOD: Cabbage farm in Trans Nzoia produced using organic fertiliser
Image: /FILE

Promoters of organic farming have reiterated their call to ban the use of glyphosate.

Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide and crop desiccant

Collins Othieno, chairman of the Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (Pelum) Kenya said they are concerned with the excessive use of agrochemicals, which could have negative impacts on human health and the environment.

“We are concerned about the cancer epidemic, increased illness and the acute and chronic poisoning attributed to pesticides. This is particularly worrying as Glyphosate Based Herbicides, including Roundup, are used extensively in the country,” Othieno said.

He spoke on Friday during an agroecology symposium at KCB sports ground.

The lobby group urged the government to ban the use of glyphosate as a desiccator. He explained that this refers to the spraying of the chemical on a wide range of crops including wheat, barley, oats, canola, flax, peas, lentils, soybeans, dry beans and sugar cane to fast-track the ripening of these crops prior to harvest.

“This practice constitutes one of the key factors precipitating the entry of glyphosate into our food values chains,” he said.

Othieno said the government should take adequate measures to ensure other more toxic chemicals do not replace glyphosate.

He further urged the government to initiate a shift from chemical and input-intensive weed management to agro-ecological farming systems.

In September, four lobby groups petitioned the government through Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Shollei to order the withdrawal of harmful chemical pesticides in the Kenyan market.

The petition was on behalf of Biodiversity and Biosafety Association of Kenya, Kenya Organic Agriculture Network, Resources Oriented Initiative Kenya and Route to Food Initiative.

They said the volume of imported herbicides, insecticides and fungicides has doubled in the past four years from 6,400 tonnes in 2015 to 15,600 tonnes in 2018.

In 2018-19 financial year, the country imported 14 million kilos of chemicals valued at Sh11.96 billion.

"The government should put in place a regulatory and legal framework that supports the emergence of the organic and ecological approaches to farming,” Othieno said.

Pelum is a network of 52 member organisations that work with 2.3 million smallholder farmers in 42 counties.

The network further urged the government to mainstream agro-ecology in the policies, programmes and investment plans while recognising the expertise of smallholder farmers as a repository of indigenous knowledge in seed breeding.

“This will enhance the resilience of smallholder farmers, pastoralists and fisherfolks to climate change,” he said.