Stop pesticide abuse

Reports that farmers in the country’s breadbasket are using pesticides to dry maize are alarming.

The farmers are said to be using nova, which contains two per cent malathion and 0.2 per cent pytherin, to alter meter readings and pass off their produce as well-dried.

This not only poses a health threat; it is dishonest in the extreme. It is telling that most of these farmers are not using the substance—which experts have flagged as unfit for human consumption and a health hazard if abused—on the grains they consume but only on what they sell.

While the use of the pesticide is allowed to fight weevils and large borers, there is a need to sensitise farmers on the proper use of pesticides and how to dry maize.

For one, the substance they are using does not dry maize but only alters moisture meter readings. Two, experts warn that its continued use could expose Kenyans to high levels of aflatoxin and exacerbate an already worrying incidence of cancer. 

This decidedly criminal practice that abets entry into the market of cereals with high moisture content comes just two years after the Kenya Bureau of Standards recalled some brands of maize flour over high aflatoxin levels.

The authorities must put in place mechanisms to reduce post-harvest losses and ensure proper storage of grains is not subverted by lazy and selfish dealers in ways injurious to public health.

To that end, farmers should be helped to understand that the stringent conditions set for releasing maize into the market are not meant to punish them but rather to protect the millions of consumers of their produce.

The various agencies in the agriculture value chain should work with the farmers to ensure this devious behaviour stops.