Farmers urged to ditch unsafe chemical pesticides

Tomato farmers at a demonstration farm in Murinduko village in Kirinyaga County.

Photo credit: George Munene | Nation Media Group

The dangerous implications of chemical pesticides to public and environmental health have been a cause of concern.

There have also been concerns about health risks posed by pesticide residues in food as pesticides can persist in the environment for decades and pose a threat to the entire ecological system.

Experts also say excessive use and misuse of pesticides pollutes water resources, causing loss of biodiversity, and further compromising the safety of food.

It is for this reason that the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) is promoting the use of non-chemical pest-fighting measures to shield consumers from excessive chemical residues in food and protect the environment.

These include the use of organic pest control methods such as neem leaf sprays and sound agricultural practices like rotating crops with others not of the same family.

According to KALRO scientists Violet Kirigua and Agnes Ndegwa, besides excessive chemicals being a danger to human health, they also eat into farmers' working profits and are a demotivator, therefore, threatening food security.

Speaking at Murinduko area in Kirinyaga County, the two said they are working towards a situation where use of chemical pest control will be a last resort after bio-friendly measures are found to have failed.

They spoke as they took a group of 60 farmers, agriculture extension officers and agrovet operators through a tomato demonstration farm after a week's training on how to get higher value from the tomato value chain.

The 60 farmers and officers from Kajiado, Mandera and Garissa will be expected to teach their fellow farmers on the best methods of managing their tomato crop, including how to get more value from the tomato fruit.

Through a petition in the Kenyan Parliament, environmental and health organisations have demanded stricter pesticide controls and the withdrawal of harmful active ingredients.

The training is among several being held by KALRO and county governments' departments of agriculture under the World Bank-funded Kenya Smart Climate Agriculture Project (KSCAP).

The project focuses on sharing out the latest innovations, technologies and management practices in farming that lead to climate-smart agriculture.

The methods being used are expected to increase productivity, enhance farmers' resilience and reduce greenhouse emissions.

A farmer, Gabow Hassan Aden from Garissa, said farming in the hot semi-arid region has been fraught with a myriad of challenges that include lack of seeds specially developed for such hot areas

He added that their crop also tends to earn low prices during peak production seasons, saying the value addition techniques they learned during the training will help them make money from produce that would otherwise go to waste due to abundance in the market.