Robert Ngugi prepares fertiliser from tithonia leaves in his farm in Wendani, Nairobi. The plant is also used to control pests.

The agricultural industry alliance is supporting government’s new pesticide legislation

Speaking on the occasion of its support alongside growers’ organisations of the government’s updating of the Kenyan pest control products (PCP) legislation, 23rd October 2019, Eric Kimunguyi, CEO of the Agrochemical Association of Kenya (AAK) recognized that Kenya is not a heavy user of pesticidesays

“As it is, Kenya is not a heavy user of pesticides. According to world rankings calculated by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, the FAO, Kenya comes in as the 75th most intense user of pesticides out of 162 countries, and this is despite being Africa’s leading horticultural exporter,” he says.

He says the Country only uses an average of a quarter of a kilo of pesticides per hectare of agricultural land, compared with nearly 10kg per hectare in Mauritius, and more than 2kg per hectare in Egypt and South Africa. Yet the usage has grown sharply in the last two years even to get to this quarter of a kilo per hectare.

The arrival of compulsory education has left many farmers short of workers for hand weeding, which has driven an increase in the use of herbicides, which the CEO attributes to the invasion by the Fall Army Worm since 2017, which in its first year in Kenya, without any pesticide regime to curb it, ate and destroyed 70 per cent of our staple food crop, maize.

“A nation cannot lose 70 per cent of its staple food crop and not face food security challenges.  But our agriculture is about more than our food security. It also provides our livelihoods – 70 per cent of Kenyans are employed, supported or earn their living from agriculture. It provides most of our jobs and much of our GDP,” says the CEO.

He says the devastating Fall Army Worm ate away maize in 2017  worth Sh2bn of revenue. lost to millions of farmers, as well as our staple food supply.

In fact, scientists have looked globally at the difference pesticides make to agricultural production, including to animal health – for as the vets join us here today, it isn’t only crops that depend on pesticides to thrive, so too do animals, as do we, ourselves, as well, in controlling mosquitos and domestic pests like cockroaches. We cannot keep our cattle free of Tsetse fly by wishing it: we dip them or spray them.

Overall, the scientists at the FAO calculate that pesticides make a 40 per cent difference to agricultural production. Now, 40 per cent is a number and once that is often used as well. But if tomorrow we saw 40 per cent of our cattle, our goats, our pigs all die it would be a catastrophe.

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That 40 per cent is not easily replaced, which gives us a lot to thank pesticides for, including for our somewhat improved maize production this year and last year
But pesticide use carries risks and therefore their usage needs to be responsible, which is what we are here today to talk about, because as my colleague from the Fresh Produce Consortium has pointed out, we also need to ensure the integrity of our nation’s health and environment.

Kenya has one of the most robust pest control frameworks in Africa. Our law is based on the Code of Conduct for Pesticide Management developed by the FAO, and the World Health Organisation, the WHO.

That law has been in place since it was drafted in 1982, alongside a set of pesticide regulations, and is built on four pillars. The first pillar is the health and environmental protection derived from the best pesticide control systems in the world.

Thus, no producer can first register any agrochemical product in Kenya. It must have been approved for use by one of the world’s leading pesticide regimes, such as the US through its Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, or the EU, or Australia.

These regimes require extensive health and environmental testing to approve a pesticide, so setting up a requirement that a pesticide has to have been approved in the US or similar puts in a first level of defence for Kenya and Kenyans: our protection becomes as good as the best available in the world.

CEO,” Our second pillar in protecting health and the environment is then local testing for pesticide residues. Food safety is vital and this is guaranteed through a requirement to submit residue studies on edible crops. The residue studies indicate the maximum levels acceptable in food and feed as set by the WHO, Cordex, or the EU, and are continuously monitored.

In fact, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate, KePHIS, tests crops, soil, water and animal produce constantly for signs of pesticide residues.

We then offer a third pillar of protection through reviews when new scientific evidence emerges, so if new research suggests a problem with a pesticide, or a country somewhere bans it, such as the UK, or Europe, that decision triggers a regulatory review in Kenya of the concerned pesticide, as long as the new finding is scientific. In this, it is important to note that regulatory decisions need to be predictable and scientific and follow universal principles. These decisions are not political.

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Moreover, science is not always as clear cut as you might think. Sometimes it can suggest a possible problem, and approaches to that risk can vary, so, for instance, we currently have some pesticides in the review process in Kenya because they have been recently banned in Europe – for instance there is one that has been banned from 28th November, next month – but the EPA in the US has continued its approval of the same pesticide classing it as safe to both the health and the environment, even in full consideration of the latest research.

In such cases, our scientific experts look at every aspect of the new data and still require approval elsewhere for the reregistration. Those experts are not politicians. They are not farmers, or chemical producers, or NGOs, or organic farming activists. They are qualified scientists who consider the evidence, and we have good reason to trust our scientists and regulatory decisions made by the competent institutions.

But we also have a fourth pillar of protection in the form of four international conventions of which Kenya is a signatory: the Stockholm, Rotterdam, Montreal and Basel conventions. These span control of the world’s most hazardous chemicals, and any pesticide banned under any of these conventions is automatically banned in Kenya and subjected to a phase out plan immediately on that suspension.

So that is our protection, based on the best risk assessments the world has to offer, just to set the record straight there.
However, the new constitution changed our agricultural extension structure, devolving the training of farmers to counties, and triggering the review of whole swathes of our legislation. In this vein, the government now also reviewed our pest control products legislation, with a new Bill and seven new regulations now finalising their impact assessment and coming up for public participation.

As well as the new recognition of county functions in training farmers to apply pesticides safely, the new legislative set has upgraded whole sets of rules, moving Kenya to the global system of hazard warnings, which is the same set of symbols and classifications shown on labels and used all over the world.

The law proposes to increase the qualifications necessary to run a pesticides business or premises, to ensure scientists are present with science degrees. The proposed new law will also create an independent Pest Control Products Authority, giving the new authority the status necessary to implementing the international conventions and laws that we have laid out above.

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We are here today to inform you all about these new laws, from the clear starting point of excellent legislative protection from any risks associated with pesticides.

We are happy to field all of your questions about pesticides and the legislation, and provide any information at all that will be helpful to you in understanding the current regime and the changes now proposed.

But first of all, please allow me to invite Ojepat Okisegere, CEO of the Fresh Produce Consortium, to also share a few words with you on the subject of the new laws from the perspective of growers.
Thankyou Ojepat.

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If you like the article, share here with others, join our whatsup and telegram too,FAO  The agricultural industry alliance is supporting government’s new pesticide legislation Speaking on the occasion of its support alongside growers’ organisations of the government’s updating of the Kenyan pest control products (PCP) legislation, 23rd October 2019, Eric Kimunguyi, CEO of the Agrochemical Association of Kenya (AAK) recognized that Kenya is not...New generation culture in agriculture