Egerton University’s study shows Kenya risks facing food insecurity following pesticides ban

KENYA – An independent study by Egerton University’s Tegemeo Institute has shown that coffee, wheat and maize  farmers are inclined to suffer 90% yield losses if the government pushes through with the ban in popular pesticide ingredients.

The ban was prompted by a bill sponsored by Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Boss Shollei, which seeks the ban of at least 200 locally used chemicals. She argues that the cancer-causing herbicides and pesticides banned in the United States and Europe were still being imported and sold in Kenya despite the health risks it poses to the people.

The two popular ingredients recommended for a ban, Cypermethrin and  Chlorpyrifos are present in most coffee pesticides in Kenya.

“The proposed ban on agrochemical has adverse effects on food security, incomes and the economy. It does not guarantee food safety,” said Timothy Njagi, a Senior Researcher at the  Egerton-based Tegemeo Institute of Research and Policy.

The campaign against the ban is led by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) funded by the German Green Party, a German environmentalist political party.

Dr Njagi said the Tegemeo Institute independently carried out the study on the impacts of the ban if effected.

Proponents of the ban cite adverse effects of pesticides on human, wildlife and the environment. They also claim there is a lack of regulatory oversight in the use and disposal of pesticides.

The activists accuse the agrochemical industry of profiteering at the expense of the health of humans, animals and the environment.

“We evaluated the potential impact of the proposed ban on pesticides on food security, rural incomes/livelihoods, food safety, agriculture value chain development and the economic impacts,” Dr Njagi told The Star.

The ban also targets Deltamethrin used to control the African maize stalk borer and spotted stemborer. The stalk borers cause up to 70 per cent yield losses. Clothianidin, a chemical used to control the maize lethal necrosis, which leads to up to 90 per cent yield losses, is also targeted.

Dr Njagi said Kenya has a well-developed policy for pesticide use and disposal and that the ban would be destructive.

“Alternative proposals for ensuring safe use and disposal of pesticides are likely to lead to better overall outcomes including achieving the objectives of the proposed ban,” he said.

The proposed ban is also targeting acetamiprid and cypermethrin, which control the Russian wheat aphid, a naughty pest that can destroy 90 per cent of yields.

In total, Njagi said the country could lose more than ksh150 billion (US$ 1,333,333,320) if the ban is put in place. He said the country would lose an equivalent of 16 percent of the gross domestic product.

PCPB pushes back ban requests

The country’s Pest Control Products Board (PCPB), said it has stringent ways of vetting pesticides used in Kenya. Dr. Paul N. Ngaruiya, the General Manager of PCPB said PCPB also works to ensure that counterfeits, expired, unregistered and substandard pest control products are removed from the market.

“PCPB inspects about 7,800 premises annually,” he said.

He said the board’s analytical laboratory also regularly analyses formulations of pesticides in the market for quality.

“PCPB analyses about 358 samples collected from various agricultural productive counties in Kenya every year,” he said.

The board has started reviewing more than 200 pesticides used in the country following a request by the National Assembly in light of the petition before Parliament on these chemicals use.

Ngaruiya pushed back the calls for the ban saying pesticides are actually designed to be toxic, which calls for their judicious use.

The board is currently building a bigger laboratory at the Loresho headquarters, which will enhance its testing capacity.

“The project needs to be supported to ensure timely completion of the laboratory and acquisition of necessary equipment,” he said.

Dr Ngaruiya admitted the current law on pest control products is weak in addressing consumer and environmental protection and facilitating market access.

The board has proposed the Pest Control Products Bill and regulations, which are currently under review. The bill seeks to modernize the pest control products regulations and to address article 42 of the Constitution of Kenya on the protection of the environment and other articles, focusing on consumer protection.

Dr Ngaruiya said the law will also conform to various multilateral environmental agreements on pest control products.

“PCPB will need to effectively prevent the introduction of banned or highly hazardous pesticides into the Kenyan market,” he said.

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