By Sharon Atieno

With the emergence of new pests and diseases such as desert locusts, fall armyworm and golden apple snail posing a threat to food security in Kenya, pesticides have become a viable option for farmers.

However, despite the benefits accrued from these products, illegal pest control products continue to pose a significant challenge to the sector. These include counterfeit, expired, smuggled, unregistered and decanted products as well as those with incomplete label.

It is against this background, that stakeholders in the sector are pushing for enactment of stringent regulations to curb their spread.

“Presence of illegal products can affect agricultural productivity, threaten business and investment opportunities, lead to pest resistance and threaten food security and safety, and affect the economy,” Collins Marangu, Director Plant Protection and Food Safety, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, said during a stakeholders’ workshop to address non-complying/illegal products in Kenya.

“Regulation of pesticides provides the society and the environment with protection from adverse effects while accessing the benefits accrued from pesticides.”

Though the sector is regulated through the Pest Control Products Act which became law in 1992, emerging issues have overtaken the current regulations. To solve this, a Bill was drafted but ten years later, it has not been enacted.

“The Bill and Regulations should be fast-tracked for effective and science-evidence based regulatory service and to facilitate safe trade in pest control products while ensuring safety of humans, animals and the environment,” Marangu said.

Erickson Kamau, Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) Compliance and Enforcement, South Rift region noted that the current legislation is lenient with penalty going for as low as shs. 200,000 ( about US$ 1,625) and as high as one million shillings (about US$ 8,127 ) with an imprisonment option of two years.

According to Kamau, the proposed Bill is more specific and punitive. Among other things, it criminalizes transportation and online sale of the illegal products as well as the improper disposal of pesticides. It also criminalizes exposing human, animal and environment to pesticide risks.

In terms of consequences for breaching the laws, the Bill proposes sentences as high as shs. 10 million (about US$ 81, 267) and as low as one million shillings (about US$ 8,127) and imprisonment of upto seven years.

Noting that the current regulations have loopholes that allow the business of illegal pest control products to thrive, Benedict Makali, Compliance and Enforcement department, PCPB Nairobi said, ”These products have significant effects on the economy. They affect sustainable agriculture, food security and to a large extent we don’t the know their risk to human health and the environment.”

Cross-border problem

Kamau notes that one of the biggest challenges to curbing illegal pest control products is the porous borders. Some products come from neighbouring countries straight to the farmers yet they have not been approved for use in Kenya.

According to Prof. Louis Suguiyama, International Peticide Consultant, Michigan State University, the problem of illegal pesticides can not be solved by a single country alone but through collaboration especially with neighbouring countries.

Additionally, Marangu observed that the harmonized farm input laws (which include pesticide laws) which are being pushed by the East African Community (EAC) may reduce the cost of farm inputs and ease the need to generate technical data to support registration or approval in the partner States.