CALL FOR A SUSTAINABLE PESTICIDE STRATEGY FOR NIGERIA

According to UNEP, poisonings from industrial and agricultural chemicals are among the top five leading causes of death worldwide, contributing to more than a million deaths every year. “Certain chemicals restrict and interfere in human development and can impair both physical and mental growth, as well as ability to learn.”[1]  That over 600 NGOs exist today for the purpose of campaigning against the use/misuse of chemical pesticides is a clear indication of a growing worldwide concern that these chemicals indeedpose severe danger to man and the environment.

 

Pest and infection burden robs our citizens engaged in agriculture and the larger economy vital revenues. Fungi are ubiquitous plant pathogens that are major spoilage agents of foods and feedstuffs.[2]Fungal infection and contamination of stored foods has been well documented. That close to 40% of crops are lost due to some kind of pests before harvest and some 10% post harvest[3] should indeed be of serious concern. Reports from Nigeria[4]  indicate that over 50% of yam tubers produced and harvested in Nigeria are lost in storage. Sometimes in October 2014, about 500 hectres of potato farmland was massively attacked by a potato blight disease in Plateau State.”[5]Just recently tomato farmers across several states in Nigeria suffered severe losses running into several billions of Naira, as a result of the Tuta absoluta disease. Several rice farmers from different states have equally called out for help, as a result of pests devastation.

 

Available control measures have not only proved inadequate and unsustainable, but have worsened the already appalling disease burden and led to further degradation of our environment. For example,the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are between 10,000-20,000 occupational pesticide poisonings annually in the United States of America. The WHO further estimates that pesticides contribute up to 1million deaths globally with developing countries like Nigeria bearing a disproportionate share.  Authorities in Nigeria report that pesticide poisoning causes about 3million acute food poisoning and over 20,000 deaths in Nigeria annually. According to a U.N. report, “The potential cost of pesticide-related illnesses in sub-Saharan African between 2005 and 2020 could reach $90 billion.” The estimated cost of pesticide poisoning exceeds the total amount of international aid for basic health services for the region.[6]How dire can the situation possibly get? “Until safe pesticides are developed and made affordable for occupational use, workers will continue to be exposed to potentially harmful chemicals.”[7]Children are at even more higher risk because far lower concentrations of chemicals will trigger adverse health effects. “Pollution and disease related to the unsustainable use, production and disposal of chemicals can, in fact, hinder progress towards key development targets by affecting water supplies, food security, well-being or worker productivity.”[8]

Many NGOs areinvolved in a global campaign for policies and standards that ensure “chemicals are used only in ways that preserve the health of communities and protect the integrity of the environment for present and future generations”.[9] This would include a ban on those substances deemed highly hazardous.

“Pesticide” is an umbrella term that includes many kinds of chemicals, natural and synthetic. A pesticide is any substance intended to control, destroy, repel, or attract a pest. Any living organism that causes damage, economic loss, transmits or produces disease may be the target pest.[10] Some of the most common pesticides include insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides, molluscicides, fungicides, repellents, disinfectants and sanitizers.[11]

 

Pesticides are toxic by design – they are BIOCIDES, designed to kill, reduce or repelinsects, weeds, rodents, fungi or other organisms that can threaten public health and theeconomy.[12]

 


 

WHAT ARE THE USES OF PESTICIDES?

  1. Crop-protection: it is reported that close to 40% of crops are lost due to some kind of pests before harvest and some 10% after it. Pesticides have played and continue play a big role in the agricultural industry.[13]
  2. Non-crop protection: forestry, gardening, leisure, industrial pest control, residential, animal health and pet products.
  3. Food preservation
  4. Material preservation
  5. Disease control

PESTICIDE USE IN AGRICULTURE

Pesticide use in agriculture dates back to the 1940s. Although pesticides can be beneficial in boosting food production, “yet many times their detrimental effects outweigh the positive ones”.Use of pesticides tends to be more intense and unsafe in developing countries, whereregulatory; health and education systems are weaker.[14] Their usage requires thorough knowledge, stringent regulation and strict compliance with strenuous safety measures. These fundamentals are often lacking in the developing countries. Pesticides can be extremely hazardous to the human body and other living organisms, as they are designed to be a poison.“The more chemicals you use, the more risk of exposure due to application and the more risk of contamination and exposure of Nigerians to the harmful effects of chemicals.”[15]Currently an estimated 3.2 million tones[16] of pesticides are used each year.

 

The farmers face a predicament because pest and fungi infections are of serious concern. With about 50% of crops losses, our farmers face very difficult problem. In an attempt to address these challenges several potentially harmful pesticides (fungicides) have been unleashed on our environment with little or no control measures, leaving the citizens’ health and the overall environment worse-off. With over 70% of Nigeria’s workforce engaged in agriculture, many of whom are illiterates, who cannot read product labels or instructions, abuse is certainly the order of the day, and the consequences (health, environment and the economy) are simply dreadful.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

We strongly recommend that a National Pesticide Strategybe put in place urgently in order to address all concerns relating to pesticide importation, production, storage and usage.  Some of the major areas to be addressed include:

 

  • Evaluation of health impacts of pesti­cides through risk assessment and ill­ness surveillance. Comprehen­sive assessments of pesticide risks to all populations (workers, children, other sensitive groups) from exposure via air, water, and food, and in the home and workplace. All reported pesticide-relat­ed illnesses should be well investigated and data should be used to evaluate its regulatory program and to fine-tune safety rules.

 

  • Monitoring potential health and environmental impacts of previously registered pesticides, helping find ways to prevent future contamination.

 

  • Residue testing of fresh fruit and vegetables, sampling domestic and imported produce from wholesale and retail outlets, distribution centers, and farmers markets.

 

  • Through grants, awards and regulatory incentives, the government should support development and adoption of pest management practices designed to encourage reduc­tions in chemical pesticide use in favour of more natural pest controls, and to reduce or eliminate harmful environmental and health impacts of chemical pesticides.

 

SUMMARY & CONCLUSION

It is no secret that the world is going “GREEN” now in as many products and processes as possible, and the reasons have been well enumerated. So much is at stake and failure to act quickly enough only exacerbates the situation.

  • Rating/Grading of pesticide brands based on toxicological data
  • Greater emphasisor preference for safer, organic pesticides
  • Stronger support for local production of organic pesticides
  • Stricter restriction or possible ban of highly toxic pesticides that have already been banned in other countries (especially in Europe)
  • Licensing of Applicators of toxic synthetic pesticides
  • Demand for greater accountability by importers/manufacturers of toxic pesticides
  • Promotion of integrated pest management (IPM) approach
  • Proactive pest control/management approach should be pursued rather than the present reactive approach
  • Adoption of advanced pest control technologies
  • Increased Budgetary provision for agricultural disease monitoring and control

 

Suffice to say that leaving highly toxic pesticides in the hands of ignorant farmers only creates an even worse problem than the pest infestation. The use and/or misuse of synthetic pesticides is affecting not only the environment, but also the sources of water, biodiversity and most importantly people’s health. Providing sustainable “green” alternatives is a global objective. Nigeria cannot afford to be left out because the consequences could be even more terrifying.

Companies/organizations engaged in the manufacture of this needed sustainable alternatives to CHEMICAL PESTICIDES/FUNGICIDES/ DISINFECTANTS should be massively supported by the Government.

 

PATRICK ONWULIRI         

P_onwuliri@yahoo.com

 

 

[1] UNEP

[2] Atanda et al

[3]Innovative Pesticides are What the World Needs Agranova. CCM China: Crop Protection Summit. March 2011.

[4] Onayemi, 1983

[5] The Eagle Online: “Blight Attacks 500 hectares of potato farms in Plateau” –  Commissioner

[6] www.unep.org

[7] www.bulldoglawyers.com/legal-services

[8] UNEP

[9] www.pan-uk.org

[10]www.cdpr.ca.gov

[11] ibid

[12] WHO

[13]Innovative Pesticides are What the World Needs Agranova. CCM China: Crop Protection Summit. March 2011.

[14] ibid

[15] The Guardian

[16] EPA

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