Silke Bollmohr, a toxicologist and Lead Scientist at EcoTrac Consulting says Kenya’s staple food is no longer safe for consumption.
Speaking during a public webinar on the state of pesticide use in Kenya, research has shown that maize, kales (sukuma wiki), and tomatoes grown in Kenya have been grown using Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs).
The World Health Organisation asserts that HHPs are dangerous to human health, animals, and the environment. In many countries, HHPs are found in food, which puts the health of consumers at risk. They are especially dangerous to farmers and land workers exposed to them.
The research done in conjunction with the Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) showed excessive use of HHPs by Kenyan farmers in Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Machakos, and Meru districts.
“A recent study that we did in collaboration with KOAN, showed that most farmers in Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Machakos, and Meru heavily used highly hazardous pesticides on Kenya’s most important crops: maize, sukuma wiki, tomatoes, and cabbages,” stated Silke Bollmohr.
“These HHPs are known to have been banned in the EU and most recently in the US, but are still available and sold in the Kenyan market,” she added.
She further explains that the pesticide Chlorpyrifos present in these vegetables is not registered for use in vegetables in the first place.
A farmer in Rumuruti known as Edward Njaibu describes the challenges faced by farmers on the ground. Pesticide multinationals and agrovet dealers have brainwashed farmers into over-reliance on chemical pesticides to protect their crops against pests.
Njaibu said farmers have little to no information on safety guidelines of pesticides use including the need for protective gear during spraying. Misuse of these pesticides is also evident in the production of crops such as cabbages and tomatoes.
Denile Samuel, Labour Rights Coordinator, Women on Farms Project (WFP) in South Africa shared her experience working with female farmworkers in South Africa.
The webinar was organised by the Route to Food Initiative (RTFI) with the aim of educating the public on the state of pesticides as the world marks World Food Safety Day.