About 20 years ago, the Crop Protection Industry [formerly GIFAP, now Crop Life International] introduced and sponsored a Safe Use of Chemicals project into Kenya.
The objective was to educate smallholder farmers in all aspects of use of agricultural chemicals. These products, despite their major benefits, were being used carelessly and incorrectly by many people. In fact, cases of poisoning were reported to say nothing of the huge number of people who were being exposed to risk.
Working closely with, and providing essential but vital support to the project were several key institutions. The Ministry of Agriculture Crop Protection Department was of particular importance alongside the Pest Control Products Board and the Agrochemical Association of Kenya. Their scientific staff carried out most of the training, which reached over half a million smallholders over the ten years of the project.
Their work, alongside other factors, has resulted in the appropriate use of chemicals and reduced poisoning incidents to a very low level to the extent that almost every poisoning associated with agricultural chemicals these days is due to some deliberate act. The importance of these early years must never be underestimated.
In 1995, Kenyan horticulture and floriculture enterprises took up the training initiatives seriously and staff handling crop protection chemicals started receiving formal safe use training’s. After some reluctance the proper use of protective gear began to be seen as the norm and more care was being taken when products were in use. Later in the 1990s Kenya, via FPEAK and Kenya Flower Council pioneered the development of codes of conduct for the industry. Over the years, these code have been refined, improved and now are internationalized with world codes of conduct in place.
Staff safety and protection of the environment are pillars of these codes. Safety training for all staff handling chemicals on the farm is now obligatory. As a result, occupational poisoning is now unheard of, accidents are rare and suicide at-tempts much accepted
The training programmes them-selves, still extensively used have been a success despite [like seat belt wearing programme in cars] taking a few years to receive wide acceptance. Alongside these training programmes, the Crop Protection
Industry has done much to revolutionize the safety side of products use. The AAK [Crop Life Kenya] has strongly supported the development of small packs of product for smallholder farmers to cut out the dangerous practice of repacking.
The PCAK has increased its presence in the market and has been for some years a potent force in implementing Kenya’s excellent products regulatory scheme.
International Chemical Companies have also played a part in improving user safety. New less toxic products have entered the market in the past years phasing out, particularly in the large scale user markets, the older organophosphates which caused problems historically with regular careless use. Newer products such as pyrethroid insecticides are also used at very low rates [a few cc’s or gms per acre]. Further, in this area, safety intervals between product use and harvest of crops are now widely respected.
Another area where Kenya has been active is ridding the country of stocks of obsolete products. In the late 1990s and early 2000 the safe use project, working with AAK and the Ministry of Agriculture destroyed some 750 tonnes of obsolete pesticides, mostly in dangerous condition. The material was incinerated at very high temperatures without incidents in a cement kiln, which in those days was the disposal method of choice in many countries. Times have changed now and obsolete and expired product is now incinerated in purpose-built facilities in [for us] Europe.
After early major clean-up operations were completed, a further 160 tonnes of products have been located mostly on farms in the country and a joint effort between FAO and the AAK is in hand to remove and destroy it in Europe. This is the new clean farms project and should see Kenya almost entirely free of expired products.
The attention paid to safety in agriculture in Kenya has been a significant factor in building the country’s fine reputation as an exporter of high quality produce to the rest of the world.
[codes of conduct, training, product registration, market control, industry product stewardship and strong government support.