Alternatives to Methyl bromide search continues

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As efforts to search for an alternative to methyl bromide intensify in Africa, experts are set to convene in Morocco next month to study best practices.

Slated for September 5-9 in Agadir, growers will be taken to farms that are successfully managing alternatives, with the deadline to phase out what so far remains the most effective, yet most ozone depleting pest control substance, closes in.

Methyl Bromide was listed under the Montreal Protocol as an ozone depleting substance in 1992 and global control schedules leading to its phase out were agreed in 1995 and 1997. The developed countries met their phase out schedule deadline by Jan1, 2005, while the developing countries are yet to meet the complete phase-out schedule due by January 1, 2015. Some African countries have followed a fast-track approach to phase-out methyl bromide prior to 2015 deadline.

A lot of efforts have been invested by the implementing and bilateral agencies and other stakeholders in trying to identify viable methyl bromide alternatives. The adoption of alternatives to methyl bromide is affected by multiple factors like local availability, registration status, market requirements, costs, labour inputs and efficacy against pests, diseases and weed complexes and, in some cases, by reduction of crop yield or quality. Alternatives need to demonstrate sufficient efficacy and yields over several seasons, before confidence is obtained for their commercial use.

Commercial availability of certain alternatives for application has continued to be of concern. The factors affecting adoption of MB alternatives are categorized into three, namely; technical, economic and commercial (TEC) feasibility of alternative technologies. The driving force behind the grower is the economic and commercial feasibility of the alternative technologies; however, this force bears no fruit unless the alternatives are implemented in a technically sound manner.

In Africa, technical capacity for technically, economically and commercially feasible methyl bromide alternative technologies is extremely low. The most promising methyl bromide alternative technology, substrate culture, is highly knowledge-dependent. Training and technology transfer are important components of achieving sustainability in MB phase-out. Few years are remaining to the complete phase-out by 2015 and it is important to ensure sustainability of the phase-out so far achieved. There is therefore need to enhance technology transfer processes leading to fast tracking adoption of Methyl Bromide alternatives, thus sustaining compliance before and beyond the 2015 milestone.

Countries have been encouraged, prior to accelerating methyl bromide phase-out, to ensure that proper and advanced planning is undertaken and suitable mechanisms have been designed and put in place to sustain compliance. Implementation of this Study Tour comes at an opportune time for farmers to benefit from the lessons learnt from a country that has implemented proper mechanisms for achieving and sustaining MB phase-out. This Study Tour will also initiate pooling regional experts together to gather the necessary momentum and thus overcome the grave challenge posed by the low technical capacity. This will be achieved via the promotion of south-south cooperation. This capacity building effort will overcome the danger posed by over-reliance on foreign experts, while gaining more trust from the African people in the technical, economic and commercial viability of the Africa-driven MB phase-out process

The overall objective of the Study Tour is to enhance technology transfer and collaboration among African growers leading to fast tracking adoption of Methyl Bromide alternatives, sustaining compliance before and beyond the 2015 milestone.

The specific objectives of the study tour will be to:

Increase awareness and exchange experiences on available commercially validated MB alternative technologies;

Provide training on application of MB alternatives to enhance technology transfer processes in order to adopt and adapt methyl bromide alternative technologies effectively and on a sustainable manner; and

Strengthen regional communication, collaboration cooperation and networking on development and adoption of sustainable TEC feasible methyl bromide alternatives and explore the role Farmers Associations can play in championing and advancing sustenance of MB phase-out beyond the 2015 deadline.