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Pesticides: ‘Kenyans need to use protective clothing’

Dr Esther Kimani, chief executive officer, Pest Control Products Board.
Dr Esther Kimani, chief executive officer, Pest Control Products Board.

Pesticides are seen as useful inputs to control pests in farming. But, also, pesticides are harmful to human life, animals and the environment. In 1985, Kenya government started Pest Control Products Board to control importation, exportation, distribution, safe disposal and use of pest control products. Dr Esther Kimani, chief executive officer, Pest Control Products Board, says farmers must only use registered products and as guided by their manufacturers.

Interview

Water Tower: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says misuse or overuse of chemical pesticides leads to pollution and the deterioration of soil health. What’s your opinion?

Dr Esther Kimani: Pesticides are inherently hazardous, harmful to man, the environment, and animals and that’s why their access and use is regulated. Farmers should only use registered products and as per the label. Before registering products, PCPB [Pest Control Products Board] conducts risk assessment and mitigation measures are prescribed.

UNEP has asked governments to help farmers use biological pest control instead of artificial pesticides. What’s your view?

The board has continued to encourage the agrochemical industry to register biological pest control products. The board has developed guidelines for registration of biologicals, and they are available on our website. The board has assessed, evaluated, and recommended for registration many biological pests control products. The board through awareness creation encourages farmers to use biological pest control products.

How much chemical pesticides are used in Kenya annually?

Use of [chemical] pesticides vary year by year. The value in kilogrammes of pesticides traded for the last six financial years is shown in the table below.

Trend in volume of pesticides imported/exported from financial year 2015/2016 to 2020/2021
Period Volume (in million kilogrammes)
2015/2016 15.5
2016/2017 14.64
2017/2018 15.81
2018/2019 14.2
2019/2020 19.8
2020/2021 19.5

Illegal pesticides

Could there be illegal chemical pesticides in use in Kenya?

Yes. Like any other products that are demanded highly by citizens, there could be illegal products in the country in the form of counterfeit, unregistered or smuggled and expired products.

The board has constituted the following mitigation measures.

  1. Border controls.
  2. Monitoring of imports.
  3. Creating awareness to stakeholders in the industry.
  4. Inspecting pesticides premises (post registration surveillance).
  5. Quality assurance control through sampling and analysis at the PCPB laboratory.
  6. Collaborating with other stakeholders in the industry.
  7. Prosecuting offenders under Pest Control Products Board Act

Have you banned any chemical pesticides?

Yes. The list of banned products is available to the public on the PCPB website

 How do you ensure farmers can identify banned pesticides?

  1. Banning involves complete stop to production of such products.
  2. No imports of banned products are allowed.
  3. Banned pesticides are removed from the list of registered products.
  4. List of banned products is availed to the public on the PCPB website.
  5. Creating awareness on the banned pesticides.
  6. Our officers conduct surveillance and inspect pesticide outlets to ensure no banned products are on sale.

How do you assess Kenyans’ awareness on how to safely use pesticides?

Generally, Kenyans are careful in the use of pesticides but there is need to adopt more use of protective clothing.

Ways we assess safe use of pesticides.

  1. Evaluation during training.
  2. Customer complaints.
  3. Conducting survey on pesticide use.

Government’s financial help

Does the government give any subsidy or tax incentive for chemical pesticides?

Yes. Pesticides are under the second schedule of the VAT law, thus are zero rated, a move aimed at making pesticides more affordable to farmers.

Do you have anything more to say about pesticides or your organisation?

The Pest Control Products Board is a statutory organisation of the Kenya Government established in 1985 under Cap 346 of 1982 laws of Kenya. The formation of the board was in recognition that pesticides are key to agricultural production and can be harmful to both human life and the environment.

The Act regulates the importation, exportation, distribution, safe disposal and use of pest control products. The board undertakes its functions through a board of management and three technical departments.

The functions of the board are to.

  1. Assess safety, efficacy, quality, and economic value of pest control products to register them, if found suitable.
  2. Assess suitability of premises used to manufacture or formulate, store, and distribute pest control products for licensing.
  3. Advise the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture on all matters relating to the Act and regulations.
  4. Monitor supply, sale and use of pesticides and ensure adherence to quality standards of pest control products from production to use.
  5. Process and issue import permits to ensure that only registered products are imported and are in the right quantities.
  6. Create awareness to the public on safety, storage, handling, and use of pest control products.
  7. Supervise disposal of waste and illegal pest control products.
  8. Investigate and prosecute cases of breaking Pest Control Products Act and regulations.
  9. Represent Kenya at international forums on pest control products.

About Kaburu Mugambi

Kaburu Mugambi is a veteran of business reporting having worked with two national newspapers in Kenya. He is a graduate of economics from Kenyatta University. He started his journalism career in 2000 with The People Daily as a business reporter before becoming a business sub-editor. He joined Daily Nation in 2004 as a business writer. He holds a post-graduate diploma in mass communication from University of Nairobi's School of Journalism and an MBA in marketing from the same university. In 2016, he founded Water Tower, a media firm focused on water, energy and climate. Its content cuts across water, energy and climate with emphasis on adaptation and sustainability.

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