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Business News of Sunday, 28 November 2021

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Nigerian farmers using large amount of toxic pesticides banned in EU - Report

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A new report has revealed that about 40 per cent of all pesticides in use in Nigeria are dangerous substances that have been banned or heavily restricted in European markets.

The report by the Alliance for Action on Pesticide in Nigeria was launched Thursday at a two- day at a conference on pesticides regulation and use in Nigeria, hosted by the AAPN and Trade Network Initiative, and supported by the Heinrich Böll Stiftung (HBS), in Abuja.

“40% of all the pesticide products registered in Nigeria have been withdrawn from the European market or are heavily restricted,” the report says.

The report, a product of a studies conducted in Kano, Oyo, Ebonyi and Benue States, noted that the 40 per cent represents 57 active ingredients in 402 products that are still in use in Nigeria. Many of those belong to the group of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) that are especially dangerous for human health, animals and the environment.

The report said 25 registered products in Nigeria have been proven carcinogenic, while 63 to be mutagenic, and 47 are endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Also, 262 products show neurotoxicity and 224 show clear effects on reproduction.

The report stated that 65 per cent of the active ingredients (26 out of 40) used by farmers in Nigeria as sampled in the field study belong to the group of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs).

“2 of these pesticides were found to be carcinogens and 2 are mutagens, 5 are known endocrine disruptor compounds (EDCs), 11 are proven neurotoxins and 12 are proven to affect the human reproductive system,” the report made available to participants showed.

It explained that human and environmental impact of this situation is evident, as a recent incident of pesticides toxicity in Benue State claimed the lives of 270 people due to the poisoning of a river with a pesticide banned in Europe.

The AAPN report said the most frequently used active ingredients by far are the insecticide chlorpyrifos, the fungicide mancozeb and the herbicide glyphosate, which all have been classified as highly hazardous.

In his remarks, Jochen Luckscheiter, Head of Office, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, said the instruments to reduce the country’s high use of pesticides and even alternatives that do not depend on the use of toxic inputs at all do exist.

These alternatives, he said, exist in the form of integrated pest management strategies, good agricultural practices, biopesticides and organic farming methods.

“But for them to play a relevant role in the sector they need to be actively promoted and incentivized, as is currently the case with conventional farming methods, relying on artificial fertilizers and chemical pesticides,” Mr Luckscheiter said.

He added that with the aforementioned, it means we have choices before us whose implications, pros and cons, as well as the interests behind them, we have to carefully weigh against one another.

Barriers hindering pesticides regulation in Nigeria

During a panel discussion session, Ahmed Munir, a House of Representative member, who represented Muntari Dandutse, chairman, House Committee on Agricultural Production and Service, and spoke on “Update on Nigeria’s Pesticide Regulations; Accelerating Processes and Actions” said there is a need for more effective cooperation among relevant intergovernmental agencies in order to fully tackle the negligence in pesticide usage in Nigeria.

“Our active, inactive and delays are truly claiming lives and properties,” he said.

Also speaking on the barriers hindering regulatory agencies of pesticides in the country, Spanny Embiemu, assistant director, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), said issues of funding for compliance monitoring, porous borders and lack of effective synergies among regulatory agencies continue to affect regulatory processes.

“Whenever it is time for us to come together for work, it’s not always effective, and this tends to impede the process, coupled with conflicting policies,” she said.

On his part, Oyeleye Abdulrazaq, a representative of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said in all the value chains in the ministry, they have extension workers who are to go round to educate farmers in pesticides usage but that the problem is that how far can these workers go?

He said to control the usage of sniper, a toxic pesticide among farmers, the ministry is replacing sniper usage with organic pesticides to keep their grains intact.

“Our problem in Nigeria is that we saddle most of our regulatory agencies with responsibilities they cannot handle,” he said.

In his submission, Daniel Ugwu, Head of Department, Science Laboratory Technology at the Federal College of Agriculture, Ebonyi State, said aside looking at the toxic effects of pesticides usage on application to food stuffs, it is important to look at the chronic implications of pesticides on farmers who don’t always put on the required personal protective equipment during pesticides application.

“Every chemical is a potential poison. It is important to look into the beneficial effects of pesticides on beneficial microorganisms,” he added.

Key recommendations

The communique of the two-day dialogue recommended that the leadership of the National Assembly, specifically the Committees on Agriculture, Public Health and Environment and Habitat, should summon NAFDAC, NAQS, NESREA on the challenges regarding pesticide use and regulation in the country.

It said as part of this, the NASS should set up an investigative committee to look into the gaps in pesticide regulation in Nigeria, ensure harmonisation between existing role players and apply pressure to accelerate the review of existing policy frameworks and practices.

Also, it called the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC ) to immediately make public and accelerate the review of its lists of banned pesticides in Nigeria and ensure that all active ingredients are not approved in markets with strong food safety and environmental protection standards such as the European Union are included.

G.B Ayoola, a professor of Agriculture Economics, in his submission said the problem of pesticides toxicity can be solved through the agroecology model of farming.

He said practices that can help reduce pesticides usage in Nigeria include: engaging influential champions to push best practices among farmers, Joint prioritization on urgent issues across agroecology, Acquisition of adequate resources, and shared measurements of agricultural outputs and development of a common agenda, as well as continuous communication.

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