RWANDA – Rwanda is embarking on a comprehensive approach that involves stringent law enforcement, vigilant field monitoring, and the promotion of sustainable farming practices in a resolute bid to eliminate the scourge of illegal pesticides in agriculture.

Key officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) highlighted these critical initiatives during a recent stakeholder consultation and awareness event.

The event, organized by the Rwanda Climate Change and Development Network (RCCDN), the Rwandan Association of Ecologists, and the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), brought together diverse agricultural stakeholders to confront the issue of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) and their associated dangers.

Beata Akimpaye, Manager of REMA’s Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Division, expressed the complexities of aligning Rwandan regulations with international treaties and conventions governing pesticide use.

She emphasized that the gap between theory and practice posed challenges such as illicit smuggling and a lack of farmer awareness about the harm caused by HHPs.

“To address these challenges, we are actively engaging with farmers in the field, conducting educational initiatives, including forums like this one, and upholding the rule of law when necessary,” Akimpaye said.

Vincent Karemera, Program Manager at the Rwandan Association of Ecologists, stressed the importance of awareness.

He pointed out that while the prevalence of HHPs may not be immediately apparent, their harmful effects could emerge over time, as reported by The New Times.

Karemera emphasized the availability of safer alternatives, such as pesticides derived from pyrethrum and the adoption of organic farming methods.

Acknowledging the harms of HHPs

Faustin Vuningoma, Coordinator of the Rwanda Climate Change and Development Network (RCCDN), underscored the devastating impact of HHPs on human health, the environment, and biodiversity.

He cited instances of bee losses in regions like Nyamasheke, where beekeeping is practiced, due to pesticide use.

Vuningoma also highlighted the danger these substances pose to human well-being and noted that some nations have already removed them from their markets.

“It’s imperative that we delve deeper into this issue,” Vuningoma said.

“Our scientists must intensify their efforts to explore superior alternatives for pesticides. We should aim to adopt pesticides that are not rejected in other countries’ markets due to their hazardous impact on human life, the environment, and biodiversity.”

Facing the reality

A 2023 study report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) revealed that Rwanda had 30 (15.8 percent) HHPs among a total of 189 pesticide formulations in use. The report also exposed the presence of fraudulent and banned pesticides in the country’s importation list.

One notable contributor to HHP importation was the fungicide Mancozeb, accounting for a substantial 70.5 percent of the total imported quantity.

Control measures against late blight disease on potatoes and tomatoes were cited as a driving force behind the widespread use of fungicides like Mancozeb and Ridomil.

The potential long-term effects of pesticide exposure, as indicated by the FAO, include birth defects, fetal toxicity, tumor development, genetic alterations, blood disorders, nerve and endocrine system disruptions, and reproductive impacts.

Farmers can suffer immediate afflictions like stinging eyes, rashes, blisters, blindness, nausea, dizziness, and even death. Furthermore, environmental damage arises from soil, water, and non-target plant contamination.

The Ministry of Agriculture emphasized the need for collaboration between regulatory bodies, farmers, and scientific communities to steer Rwanda’s agriculture sector toward a safer and more ecologically sustainable path.

By uniting their efforts, Rwanda aims to protect the health of its citizens, preserve its precious environment, and ensure the long-term viability of its agriculture.

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