By Gift Briton

Six in every ten pesticide products used in Kenya contains one or more ingredients that can either cause cancer, infertility, affect unborn children, change genetic material, affect the hormonal system or damage the nervous system in humans.

This is according to research findings of a newly released report by The Route to Food Initiative, a program of the Heinrich Böll Foundation(HBF) in Kenya, titled: Toxic Business| Highly Hazardous Pesticides in Kenya.

Pesticides are substances or chemicals that are used to control pests/insects, weeds and diseases. Pesticides containing highly dangerous ingredients may cause death.

According to the report, in 2020 (the research period), a total of 310 pesticide products were used by Kenyan farmers 195 of which are very detrimental to their health and the ecosystem.

These products are registered and used in Kenya despite 44% (by volume use) already banned in Europe due to their unacceptable risk to human health and the environment.

Furthermore, the report indicates that these products are heavily used in staple foods in Kenya. The highest volume of these harmful chemicals was used in maize followed by coffee, potatoes, tomatoes and tea.

Based on the market share, the research found that a total of 73 companies own different pesticide brand products in Kenya.

Syngenta is leading the market share. The company sells 40 pesticide products (544 tonnes in volume) in Kenya, 68% of which are highly hazardous. Bayer AG company follows closely with 39 products (286 tonnes in volume) of which 84% are highly hazardous.

Speaking during the report launch, Dr. Harun Warui, lead program coordinator for agroecology at HBF, noted that food insecurity cannot be solved if toxic chemicals are still being used to produce food and urged Kenyans to embrace diversity in their diet.

“The most hazardous pesticide products are the cheapest in the Kenyan market with farmers continuously using them hoping to increase food production. The government should strengthen key institutions that are responsible for regulating the use of pesticides including the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) and Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) to protect human health and the environment,” he observed.

He further encouraged the government to ban the importation and exportation of these highly hazardous pesticides and educate farmers about the dangers of some of these products

“We have also learned that most farmers lack the information on the alternatives such integrative pest management,” he said.

Kenyan farmers used a total of $72.7 million to purchase HHPs with insecticides having the highest HHPs volumes followed by herbicides and fungicides.

The top five widely used hazardous insecticides in Kenya are Marshal, Thunder Belt, Occasion-Star and Dursban covering an area of 635,350 hectares.

Moreover, the most heavily applied herbicides include Kalach, Touchdown Forte, Dryweed, Roundup Turbo, Herbstar, Gramoxone, Lumax, HY-2.4, 2.4-D and Agromine while the widely used fungicides are Ridomil-Gold, Nordox-Super and Milthane.

The report advocates for the need for farmers to have access to relevant information and knowledge for making informed decisions on sustainable agricultural practices.

Prof Michieka Ratemo, Chairperson, National Research Fund Board of Trustees, urged the government to immediately phase out pesticides containing ingredients that are highly hazardous.

He says that some farmers fail to wear protective gear during the application noting that, “some of these chemicals are harmful to human health but this effect will be reduced if it is used sparingly and in the right way,” he said.

Prioritize the implementation of integrated pest management strategies including alternative pest and disease management strategies such as biological control, crop rotation and reducing the reliance on synthetic pesticides, the report reads.