Pesticides in Kenya: What’s at stake?
Agriculture accounts for about 24% of Kenya’s GDP with an estimated 70% of the rural population working in the sector either directly or indirectly. As an agricultural economy and while promoting mainly conventional agriculture, Kenya’s demand for pesticides is relatively high and steadily increasing. According to the Agrochemicals Association of Kenya, in 2018 the country imported 17,803 tonnes valued at 128 Mill $. These pesticides are an assortment of insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, fumigants, rodenticides, growth regulators, defoliators, proteins, surfactants and wetting agents. Of the total pesticide imports, insecticides, fungicides and herbicides account for about 87% in terms of volume and 88% of the total cost of pesticide imports.
It’s remarkable that the volume of imported insecticides, herbicides and fungicides has more than doubled within four years from 6,400 tonnes in 2015 to 15,600 tonnes in 2018, with a growth rate of 144%.
The increase in pesticide use requires necessary safe guards to control how they are applied, which will be challenging to fulfil in Kenya as shown in this paper.
In Kenya there are no data available concerning the use of pesticides or the concentrations of pesticides in water, soil and food and the related impacts. Most of the research focuses on the persistent organic pollutants, such as DDT, lindane and endosulfan, which are rarely used anymore (Abong’o et al., 2018). On an irregular basis, Kenyan Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) takes food samples, initiated and funded by the EU (EC, 2013), but the actual levels of pesticides are not made available to the public. Additionally, no regular monitoring system is in place. Epidemiological health studies related to pesticide exposure in Kenya, do not exist. This means it is not definitively known if we are facing an impact of pesticides on our environment and our health.
Kenyan consumers and farmers are not aware about the extent of pesticide use, their concentrations in food and environment and their possible effects on the environment and ecosystem services.
Due to the high toxicity towards human health and the environment and due to their persistence (length of time in the environment), many of these pesticides are banned or heavily restricted in Europe. Despite European restrictions and interventions to use less hazardous products, some of the withdrawn pesticides are still in use in Kenya, and continue to threaten the environment and the health of Kenyan citizens.
This paper sheds light on the amount and type of active ingredients and related harmful products used in Kenya, as well as Europe’s and other countries’ contribution to the situation.
The paper discusses potential impacts on environment and human health and the shortcomings in international and national legislation, which enable the current use of restricted pesticides in Kenya. To conclude, different solutions are suggested to introduce the first steps towards a better pesticide management approach and towards a more sustainable and regenerative agriculture.
If you haven’t already, you can download the full White Paper here.