ZIMBABWE – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI) have formulated a harmonized HHP Mitigation Strategy to strengthen HHP regulation across the Southern Africa region.

This is in a workshop held in Harare, featuring participation from 14 pesticide regulators from the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA), alongside senior technical advisors from KEMI, and Zimbabwean representatives from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development (MLAFWRD), the Ministry of Health and Childcare (MoHCC), and technical officers from FAO.

The regulators discussed the status and gaps in their respective pesticide regulatory frameworks and deemed the workshop timely for updating and developing regulatory measures to reduce HHP risks.

Memory Mahofa, an Agricultural Economist in Zimbabwe’s MLAFWRD, highlighted the feasibility of increasing agricultural productivity with limited use of HHPs.

Among the proposed solutions were the promotion of less hazardous alternatives, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices, and proper use and risk reduction measures, such as training farmers and ensuring the availability and use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Stakeholders also developed draft risk mitigation plans.

Commitment to safer agricultural practices

Stakeholders at the workshop called for an end to the use of HHPs, asserting that feeding the world without these hazardous chemicals is achievable.

HHPs constitute only a small percentage of registered pesticides in any country, typically ranging from 6 to 13 percent, and safer alternatives are available. Daisy Ndlovu, an Environmental Health Officer at Zimbabwe’s National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), expressed optimism about the collaborative efforts of the two governments in phasing out HHPs.

Shengai Mwale, Principal Research Officer under the Agricultural Research, Innovation and Specialist Services Directorate at MoLAFWRD, emphasized the importance of political will from government authorities and the pesticide industry to stop the use of HHPs.

The formulation of a harmonized strategy is seen as a pivotal move towards achieving this goal and enhancing regional cooperation in pesticide regulation.

Delegates shared their experiences and insights, compared lists of identified HHPs, discussed pesticide risk and needs assessments, and jointly identified viable alternatives.

According to Ivy Saunyama, an FAO Agricultural Officer, the guidelines for HHP risk reduction recommend a clear, stepwise approach comprising identification, assessment, and mitigation.

Zambia and Zimbabwe have adhered to these guidelines, facilitating a productive exchange of ideas and solutions during the workshop.

Nkole Chanda, an Inspector at ZEMA, emphasized the global necessity of meticulous care when dealing with HHPs due to their profound impact on human health and ecosystems. The use of HHPs is a pressing development and human rights issue, with repercussions extending far beyond agricultural fields.

An estimated 385 million cases of unintentional pesticide poisoning occur worldwide annually, including approximately 11,000 fatalities. This statistic translates to about 44 percent of farmers being poisoned each year.

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