By Charity Wanja

Pests and weeds are Paul Muriuki Mugambi’s biggest headache in is his five hectare piece of land located in Naru Moru , Laikipia County.

Mugambi, who has specialized in export food crops such as baby corn and various types of peas is keen on good crop protection for a good harvest.

The 40 year old, who has currently planted baby corn, has to ensure that he has applied proper crop protection to fight fungus, weeds and other pesticides to ensure that he has a good yield at a cost of about Ksh 10,000 (about USD100).

Paul Mugambi in his farm

He buys a kilogram of baby corn at a cost of Ksh 2000 ( about USD 20), and  uses 15kgs of fertilizer at a cost of Ksh 100 (about USD 1) per kilogram to supplement soil fertility.

“I use the following agro- chemicals in different stages of corn production;  herbicides like catapult 480SL, Twiga 2,4D.Insecticides like hable 5WG, prove1.92, Escort 19Ec, Decis 2.5Ec against stalk borers, fall army worms, caterpillars and aphids,and fungicides like ortiva 250sc, Azoxytop 325sc against leaf spots and rust,” said Mugambi.

Africa being a relatively warm continent,  pests and diseases  are a menace for farmers like him, hence Bonface Muriuki, a field foreman from Flamingo exporters, has to ensure that Mugambi and other contracted farmers are following the proper agro-chemicals application.

“We target farmers that have been contracted by the company and it depends with what crop they are planting for the season. We have a specific requirement of chemicals /products that the farmer needs to use following the market specification in order to comply with the euro gap,” said Muriuki.

He also trains farmers on how to apply the chemicals, storage and disposal of the extra chemical they were using including the expired ones and containers.

“We also emphasize how to protect the farmer from chemical harm using the protective gear, that is the gloves, gumboots, overall, mask headscarf,” said Muriuki, adding that once the harvest is collected, each produce is well labeled and taken to the company where they test for residues before export.

Africa’s warm climate is conducive for the pests to grow as part of the ecology, and without tools to effectively control them, they will definitely have an adverse effect on food security. The farmers also need to have quality seeds , good agronomic knowledge and use good crop protection chemicals.

Principal consultant at Agcuity consulting, Kinyua M’Mbijjewe points out that crop protection is very important to farmers, they need to have the tools to be able to protect their crops from pests and diseases that will destroy or reduce their yield.

However, farmers are anxious over the outcome of this year’s  African Union (AU)-European Union (EU) Summit which is scheduled for early 2022 to discuss the European green deal which seeks to reduce the use of chemical pesticides by 50% and fertilizer by 20%  per hectare.

Kinyua M’Mbijjewe during a Science Africa pesticides training

“It depends on how the discussions and negotiations the AU-EU summit will go. The EU has stated that Africa is its partner, and a leading partner for trade, so we hope that the dialogue that will ensue will carry the concerns African have on certain aspects of the European Green deal, ” M’Mbijjewe said.

“While it is good for Europe to look at dropping emissions to net zero, there are certain aspects such as farm to fork strategy which are of concern. Their ambition to reduce chemical pesticides by 50% and fertilizer by 20% is okay where their farmers are very well supported and food  surpluses. But with net deficit in food production and with rising population, and changing food diet and increasing import, we need to recognize that we are not starting from the same base.”

He noted that there is need for Africa to  increase its pesticide and fertilizer use in line with the head of state Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CADAP) and Malabo conferences.

The green deal has four broad pillars focusing on consumer demands, food production, industry behavior and trade policy.

In consumer demand, it will target nutritional labelling and creating a sustainable labelling framework that covers nutrition, climate, environment and social aspects of food products. The labelling requirements are intended to empower consumers to make conscious decisions about health and sustainability.

While food production, sets out the fundamentals for sustainable production by setting targets that reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides and the revision of legislation covering feed additives and animal welfare.

Industry behavior,  seeks concrete commitments from agribusiness and other food-system actors concerning health and sustainability. The EU will develop a code of conduct on the development of business and marketing practices and require agribusiness to integrate sustainability into their corporate strategies.

Additionally, the trade policy, will seek commitment from third countries on the use of pesticides and animal welfare and the fight against mircobial resistance.

An impact study on the Green deal in Africa by ECDPM Policy Briefing Note 137 show that the European Green Deal’s Biodiversity Strategy will result in reduced agricultural production in Europe, increased European agricultural imports and reduced exports, higher international food prices and  increased global food insecurity.

The key recommendation made after various studies indicate that the EU needs to make full use of its various policy instruments, including trade policy, investment facilitation, development assistance and international diplomacy – to support efforts by developing countries to improve the sustainability and resilience of their own food systems. Emphasis has been put to supporting a transition to sustainable food systems in Africa, given the severe challenges facing the continent’s food system.