A four-day global agriculture conference will be held in Nairobi next week to chart the way forward on how to sustainably reduce the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers.
The conference to be attended by over 500 agriculture value chain players will equally discuss the dangers of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
It will be hosted by the World Food Preservation Centre (WFPC), Organics International (IFOAM) and Biovision Africa Trust (BvAT) and their local and international partners.
The BvAT Executive Director, David Amudavi on Friday said there are concerns on use of harmful pesticides and substandard fertilisers that are being blamed for the low crop production.
This he added has prompted the discussion on the strategies for increasing the uptake of agro-ecological programmes and initiatives.
“The number is steadily increasing as developing nations are steadily transitioning over to chemical-based agriculture in a misguided and misinformed effort to increase yields and lower costs. The use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides has been linked to a number of environmental problems and issues,” said Dr. Amudavi.
He said chemicals being applied to crops not only stay on the plants they are used on, but also seep into the soil, the ground water, and are carried by the breeze sometimes for miles where they then contaminate other plants.
This he said has led to depletion of essential nutrients in soil and more so due to many generations of cultivations.
Surprisingly, the value chain players noted that farmers even after using the chemical fertilisers for long have continued to face low food production.
For example, the government for more than a decade has spent over Sh.20 billion to buy subsidised fertilisers for small scale farmers.
“The risk these chemicals pose to human health is even more worrying. According to the United Nations, 90 per cent of synthetic pesticide fatalities come from developing countries and estimated costs from synthetic pesticide poisoning in sub-Saharan Africa now exceed the total annual overseas development aid given to the African region for basic health services,” he added.
By 2020, Amudavi cautioned that if the trend is not tamed, the accumulated cost of illness and injury linked to pesticides in small-scale farming in sub-Saharan Africa could reach Sh. 900 billion (USD90 billion).
Past research findings indicate that an estimated 3.5 billion kilogrammes of pesticides is applied to crops each year.
An organic farmer, Ammi , the Veggie man, observed that farmers in Kenya are slowly deviating from using chemical fertilisers and instead opting for organic farming.
“The tide in Kenya is changing as farmers have started realising the dangers that are associated with using of synthetic fertilisers,” said Ammi.
Most of the chemicals used on crops are associated with the emergence of cancer and diabetes among other diseases.
“Kenyans should take responsibility for what they eat, what they grow, what is used to grow that food and how you approach it,” he added.
Ammi claimed that most chemicals in use today in food crops were banned over 30 to 40 years ago but agro-vet dealers are still stocking them in their shelves in different brand names.
Peter Mokaya from Organic Consumer Alliance (OCA) said the Kenya cannot achieve food security if it does not produce safe food.
“One of the major food safety concerns is under the ground, what we put in the soil in many ways affects the food safety, pesticides, synthetic fertiliser some of these have been associated not only in killing the soil microorganisms but also acidifying the soil as has been found locally, “ said Dr. Mokaya.
He said application of chemical fertilisers and pesticides has for long continued to deplete soil micro-organisms that affect plants ability to be robust. Some fertilisers carry residues of harmful poisonous pesticides that have heavy metals like mercury copper acidic and lead.
The conference which is the first International Conference on Agroecology dubbed “Transforming Agriculture & Food Systems in Africa” will be held on June 18-21st geared towards providing a platform for discussions on how to enhance ecological trade in the region.
By Wangri Ndirangu