Kenya celebrated its first-ever World Food Safety Day in Meru County on Tuesday, where it was revealed that farmers were not using pesticides and crop chemicals as instructed by scientists, the government, and pesticide producers.
In addition, the majority of farmers were also not using Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), while applying chemicals to their crops which expose them to dangerous chemical substances.
Speaking during the event that was held at Kaguru Agricultural Training Centre and which attracted about 3,000 farmers, Agriculture, Livestock, Cooperatives and Blue Economy Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), Mr. Lawrence Omuhaka, said a report released by the Pest Control Products Board indicates that only 40 percent of the farmers read instruction labels on pesticides containers.
He added that only 56 percent of farmers with seven acres and above use the pesticides properly with the rest not caring at all.
Additionally, only 16 percent of farmers use proper protective clothing, when they are applying chemicals to their crops.
More worrying is the fact that farmers were not following instructions on the amount of chemicals to apply to various crops, with Omuhaka, saying a large number were either applying less or excess chemicals.
“They are either using too much or too little. We should use the chemicals as instructed so that we can effectively prevent pests and diseases that harm our crops,” said Omuhaka.
He said proper use of chemicals would result in increased production of quality food resulting in better prices in local and export markets.
He further said food safety was key as it affects people’s health adding: “When you use the chemicals as required you are saving your own life and saving lives of others. The outside market is very keen on the safety of the food that we produce.”
Omuhaka said it was important that the pesticides are used properly as recommended by Pest Control Products Board, Agrochemicals Association of Kenya (AAK), and other associated bodies.
AAK CEO, Eric Kimunguyi, said as a player in the industry they were keen to create awareness on food safety and security and promote best practices.
While there are regulatory bodies on the distribution and licensing of various chemicals, he added, it was the responsibility of every Kenyan, including farmers and consumers to ensure stipulated guidelines were followed on their use to ensure the production of quality and safe food.
He said they will continue to create awareness among Kenyans throughout the country as well observe the World Food Safety Day in other counties across the country.
Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) Board member, Lawrence Kalawa, on behalf of CEO, Esther Kimani, said they were training farmers to use chemicals according to the labels.
Kalawa said in the Kenyan tropics, it was impossible to practice agriculture without the use of chemicals and therefore it was paramount for farmers to ensure they protect themselves while using or handling any pesticide.
He revealed that some farmers were using chemicals on the wrong crops thus compromising food quality.
He added: “Every pesticide is made for particular use in a particular crop. It is, therefore, wrong to use a certain pesticide meant for Sukuma wiki to spray tomatoes.”
Meru Governor, Kiraitu Murungi, said the County was hard hit by cancer cases, most of them associated with food, and therefore holding the first celebration in the County was a great honour to the residents.
He said it was time for the National Government and other stakeholders to put stringent measures on chemical residues on agricultural products in order to save the lives of Kenyans.
While stringent food safety measures are taken to ensure food exports were safe, he added, residents are not protected against harmful foods consumed locally.
He said his Cabinet has already come up with a food safety draft Bill, which was pending before the County Assembly. “We would like to work with the National Government which has a large capacity to implement this policy for the benefit of our people,” he said.
By Dickson Mwiti