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Government petitioned to withdraw toxic pesticide in use in Kirinyaga and Murang'a

A section of farmers in Murang’a and Kirinyaga are using toxic pesticides which are harmful to both humans and the environment, especially to fish and bees. 

In a survey conducted by the Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) and Eco-Trac Consulting, the national and county governments have been petitioned to train extension officers and increase budget allocation for extension services.

KOAN undertook a rapid assessment survey in Murang’a and Kirinyaga counties early this year to establish the extent of usage of chemical pesticides on crops, pesticide residue on tomatoes and kales as well as residues in river streams.

According to the findings which have been presented on a whitepaper titled “Pesticide use in Murang’a and Kirinyaga counties, a wakeup call for better pest control strategies” states that high residues of toxic pesticides were found in kales and tomatoes sold in the local markets in Kirinyaga. 

Additionally, toxic pesticides withdrawn in Europe are currently used in tomatoes, maize, coffee and cabbage. 

“During our survey we established that Agrovet dealers recommend pesticide products, which are proven to have certain chronic health effects and are toxic to bees and fish as well. Some of them are already withdrawn from the European market,” explained KOAN chief executive Eustace Kiarii. 

The research also established that pesticide residues in tomatoes and kale exceeded the regulation standards making the samples collected from the market unfit for human consumption. 

From the survey it emerged that 30 per cent of the farmers who undertook the survey are not using any personal protective equipment (PPE) when applying the toxic pesticides hence exposing themselves to toxic pesticides like carbendazim, chlorothalonil and permethrin, which have been withdrawn in Europe, due to their chronic effect. These are still in use in the two counties. 

“Generally, there is still a lack of knowledge on sustainable farming systems using less or no pesticides among farmers, extension officers, regulators and the public. While farmers and rural residents are most frequently and directly exposed to pesticides, consumers are also at risk through residues in food and drinking water,” Kiarii added in a statement. 

Since pesticides are deliberately designed to kill insects, many have an impact on the ecosystem, including fish, pollinators, earthworms and other important soil organisms. These effects are made worse, if mitigation measures such as buffer zones, recommended spraying times and spraying rates, and directions on target crops are not followed.
KOAN has established a database (www.saferinputs.com), to provide information on alternative and safer solutions obtained from multiple sources.

A study by the Route to Food Initiative in 2019, established that out of the 230 active ingredients registered in Kenya, by the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB), only 134 are approved in Europe, 19 are not listed in the European database and 77 have been withdrawn from the European market or are heavily restricted in their use due to potential chronic health effects, environmental persistence, high toxicity towards fish or bees. Of the pesticides registered, 5% of the active ingredients have been proven to be carcinogenic (cause cancer), 4% are mutagenic (affect genetic makeup), 6% are endocrine disruptors (affect the hormonal system), 20% are neurotoxic (affect the nervous system) and 41% have effects on male reproductive systems, including causing infertility. 

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