Kenyan farmers have been urged to keep the environment free from plastic pollutants in order to produce safe and nutritious food for consumption.
The Kenya National Farmers’ Federation said plastic pollution is a major threat to land and especially soil health which in turn has a ripple effect on the nation’s food systems.
Hulda Too, Project Officer, Youth Development Program at KENAFF noted that farmers experience firsthand the effects of environmental pollution.
“Farmers are mostly affected when they farm in a polluted environment, this is because they rely on the land, soil to produce safe food.It is important therefore, to keep our soil in good health and environment clean so that we do not have this waste from plastics get into our food systems,” said Ms. Too who was representing KENAFF chairman during the World Environment Day clean-up campaign at Gikambura Market, and Thogoto Shopping center in Kikuyu, Kiambu County.
“When plastics get into our waterways and pollute the water, and later our farmers use the water to produce food, its impacts on the safety of the produce. It is also a threat to environmental conservation efforts,” said Ms Too.
In line with this year’s World Environment Day theme, “Beat Plastic Pollution”, KENAFF in collaboration with Karai Youth Forum, Prybestarian University Journalism Club has embarked on educating the traders on waste management and the opportunities it offers.
“Most of our staff resides here in Gikambura. Charity begins at home. We need to have a clean environment that is free from single-use plastics.
In this area, they haven’t set a side area where people can dispose of their plastic waste. We are beginning the awareness today so that the residents can know the importance of cleaning the environment for the prosperity of the nation and even for the future generation,” noted Too.
Clement Karanja, Programs Coordinator at Karai Youth Forum said that the plastics collected during the clean up with end up creating employment for youths through innovative recycling.
“As a youth group, we are already running plastics conservation and recycling programs. The plastic and trash we have collected today will go a long way to help create entrepreneurial opportunities for the youth,” said Karanja.
The umbrella body of farmers’ organizations has embarked on awareness creation on the safe use and recycling of plastics among its members spread across the country as a push to conserve the environment.
“We cannot do away with plastics completely. And what we are advocating for is the safe use and disposal of plastics,” added Ms Too.
The federation is also planning to work with organizations and stakeholders in the sector to produce biodegradable plastics for farmers.
“We are also looking into ways in which we can partner with other organizations and stakeholders to have biodegradable plastics so that once they are disposed of, they don’t pollute the soil but instead they revitalize the soil,” she added.
Out of 54 countries in Africa,34 have either passed a law banning plastics and implemented it or have passed a law with the intention of implementation.
Kenya put in place a total ban on single-use plastic bags in 2017, there are tax breaks for investors involved in plastic recycling. However, the steps are still heavy when it comes to the implementation of these regulations.
Humanity produces over 430 million tonnes of plastic annually, two-thirds of which are short-lived products that soon become waste. While the social and economic costs of plastic pollution range between $US300 to US$600 billion per year.
According to a recent UNEP report, Turning off the Tap, plastic pollution could reduce by 80 percent by 2040 if countries and companies make deep policy and market shifts using existing technologies.
Richard Munang, Deputy Regional Director UNEP says that skills retooling of young people to see opportunities in plastics is vital in tackling plastic pollution.
“Policy is important because it’s the biggest driver of change and it needs to be put in place. What has been missing sometimes in this equation is that it’s the citizens that implement these policies. At an individual level, how do we play our part in beating plastic pollution? Munang posed in an earlier interview with a local TV station.
Another issue is access to finance to power the youth into innovative plastic entrepreneurial opportunities.
“Apart from government incentives on access to finance. The private sector also needs to double their effort by creating training centers which can be used to capacity build the young people on plastic recycling opportunities,” Munang added.
KENAFF used the occasion to hand over two dustbins that were received on behalf of the community by the local administrative officers.