By Naomi Kitur and Christian Benard 

Instead of banning pesticides because of the European Union (EU) Green Deal recommendations, Kenya needs to consider options for the safe use of agrochemical, Dr. Timothy Njagi, Development Economist, Tegemeo Institute said.

Speaking during the press briefing on options for safe use of agrochemicals for increased productivity in Kenya, Dr. Njagi said  that the effects the ban would cause if implemented locally are more devastating than the issue of safety of pesticides itself.

“If we effect the ban, it will no longer be a health issue. It will have adverse effects on food security, agricultural development, family livelihoods and the economy,” he said.

“There is need for objective debate on the issues and how we can start resolving them for the benefit of consumers and producers. We therefore need to address knowledge gaps among farmers on use and disposal of pesticides, complementary and alternative products.”

Dr. Njagi noted that Kenya doesn’t necessarily have a problem of using too much, the problem is how to use it.

According to the researcher, a halt to the usage of pesticides would reduce production and consequently increase reliance on imports.

“If we stop the importation that would mean severe food shortage and therefore prices will go up. As a collective role we should invest in local research and development in order to enhance capacity for monitoring residue,” Njagi said.

He further mentioned that there would be  a possible trade war between Kenya and other countries because of the looming measures.

Dr. Njagi acknowledged the issue of  misuse of pesticide in the kenyan agricultural sector especially on horticultural food crops, that is, fruits and vegetable. But he said that the extent of the misuse has not been established, (studies not representative).

Dr.Njagi also explained that the causal effects of pesticides and non-communicable diseases has not been established within local context.

‘’There is no study done in Kenya that shows that if you use a particular pesticide, it will cause cancer, for this issue to be clear, there is need to contextualize the use of pesticides,’’ he said.

According to Dr.Njagi, the biggest cause of the misuse of pesticides is the collapse of extension systems.  This has led to farmers sourcing information on products from agro dealers or other farmers who have little know-how on proper use.

Also, the knowledge on safe use and disposal among farmers and the use of protective gear during use of pesticides is limited, he added.

To resolve this issue, there is need to address knowledge gaps among farmers on the use and disposal of pesticides and on complementary and alternative products.

Another major cause of the misuse of pesticide is the aspect of unscrupulous traders who contaminate fruits and vegetables away from the farm, Dr. Njagi said.

Furthermore, the theft of agricultural produce has really contributed to misuse. ‘’People may unknowingly steal farm produce that may have been sprayed the previous day and sell them at the market,’’ he stated.

There is need therefore to enhance capacity for monitoring residue. There is also a need for the placement of food safety standards for locally marketed food and fast-tracking of the enactment of regulations on the use of pesticides, Dr.Njagi recommended.

Counterfeiting of agrochemicals, he added, is also a major issue can be handled by strengthening monitoring so as to detect counterfeit products that get into the market.

Industries, Dr.Njagi said, have responded to counterfeiting by introducing the mark of quality on original products, training farmers and service providers and also properly disposing old stock and used containers.

He also mentioned that there is need to increase the capacity for testing and monitoring residues and food imports to ensure that the overall goal of ensuring food safety for local consumers is attained.