The Route to Food Initiative (RTFI) a programme of the Heinrich Böll Foundation on 13th September, released the first ever report based on empirical data on Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) in Kenya.
Please see an overview of the reports content and recommendations.
The pesticide market in Kenya has experienced significant growth, leading to concerns about
the harmful effects of registered pesticides on human health and the environment. Pesticide
residues exceeding limits have been found in Kenyan food, particularly in tomatoes and kale.
Limited progress in implementing stricter regulations and phasing out toxic pesticides has raised concerns about food safety and environmental impact.
Accurate usage data is crucial to support the phasing out of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) in Kenya. However, official data on national pesticide use is not publicly available. To address this gap, the Route to Food Initiative (RTFI), a programme of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Kenya, obtained a pesticide dataset from a private market research company. The analysis focuses on Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) and provides insights into the most commonly used and most toxic pesticides, as well as the crops and companies involved. This data underscores the need for immediate regulatory attention to prioritize substances that pose risks to the environment and human health.
GENERAL INFORMATION ON PESTICIDE USE
An analysis of the data revealed that during the reporting period of 2020 farmers in Kenya used
a total of 310 pesticide products containing 151 active ingredients. They applied a total volume of 3,068 tonnes of pesticide products to control insects, diseases, and weeds on 26 di_erent crops. Farmers spent all in all $72.7 million on the purchase of pesticide products, with $28.2 million on insecticides (led by chlorpyrifos, flubendiamide, and imidacloprid), $26.4 million on herbicides (led by glyphosate and paraquat), and $18.1 million on fungicides (led by mancozeb).
Out of the 310 pesticide products used, 195 products (63%) containing one or two active ingredients that are categorized as HHPs, accounting for 76% of the total volume of pesticides used. This indicates that farmers in Kenya predominantly use HHPs, despite their known detrimental effects on human health and the environment. Notably, almost half (44%) of the total volume of pesticides used in Kenya are already banned in Europe due to their unacceptable risk to human health and the environment.
Among the top 30 pesticide products in terms of volume, the majority are highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) as well.
The top five widely used insecticides in Kenya are Marshal (carbosulfan), Thunder (beta- cyfluthrin + imidacloprid), Belt (flubendiamide), Occasion-Star (emamectin benzoate + indoxacarb), and Dursban (chlorpyrifos). These highly hazardous insecticides cover an area of 635,350 hectares, which accounts for 21% of the total pesticide-treated area.
The most heavily applied herbicides include Kalach, Touchdown Forte, Dryweed, Roundup Turbo (containing glyphosate), Herbstar, Gramoxone (containing paraquat), Lumax (containing mesotrione), HY-2.4-D, 2.4-D-Max, and Agromine (containing 2.4 D-amine). Paraquat and 2.4 D-amine are both banned in Europe. The most widely used fungicides are Ridomil-Gold (mancozeb/- metalaxyl-M), Nordox-Super (copper-oxide), and Milthane (containing mancozeb). Insecticidal products are generally applied in lower volumes due to their higher toxicity. Among them, Dursban (containing chlorpyrifos), which is banned in Europe, has the highest volume.
A total of 73 different companies serve as brandowners for the products used in Kenya. Syngenta leads the pesticides market with a 20% market share, followed by Bayer AG with 15%, Corteva Agriscience™ (agriculture division of DowDuPont™) with 7.7%, FMC Corporation with 5.7%, and Adama Agricultural Solutions with 4.4%.
Syngenta, headquartered in Switzerland, sells 40 products with the highest volume of pesticides in Kenya (544 t), of which 68% are HHPs. The top three products in terms of volume contain glyphosate, paraquat (banned in Europe), metalaxyl and mancozeb (banned in the EU).
Bayer AG, a German company, sells 39 products with a total volume of 286 t, of which 84% are HHPs. Their top-selling product in terms of volume contains glyphosate, while the top- selling product in terms of value is the insecticide Thunder, containing beta-cyfluthrin and imidacloprid (both banned in the EU).
Maize, wheat, co.ee, potatoes, and tomatoes in Kenya require the largest volumes of pesticides, with a heavy reliance on Highly Hazardous Pesticides. In maize and wheat production, herbicides such as 2.4-D, S-metolachlor, glyphosate, atrazine, and paraquat are primarily used. However, the insecticide chlorpyrifos is also applied in high volumes. Co.ee production uses high volumes of highly hazardous insecticides (chlorpyrifos, diazinon, omethoate, and thiophanate), fungicides (chlorothalonil), and herbicides (glyphosate, atrazine). Potatoes and tomatoes also heavily depend on HHPs, with mancozeb being a widely used fungicide. Mancozeb is banned in the EU and has been linked to cancer. Tomato production also involves the use of a variety of highly hazardous insecticides (e.g., diazinon, thiamethoxam).
Out of the 310 pesticide products used, only six are biopesticides, which are primarily used for insect pest control, and one biopesticide (Trianum-P), which is used to combat fungal diseases like Fusarium. Sustainable biopesticides account for a mere 2% (47.3 t) of the total pesticide volume used in Kenya, while Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) account for 76% (2353 t). HHPs like Marshal, Thunder, and Dursban are priced lower per hectare compared to the biopesticide like Achook. Most of these biopesticide products are used on beans, a significant export crop to Europe.
ACTIVE INGREDIENTS OF CONCERN
Based on their potential human health toxicity, considering factors such as carcinogenicity, reproductive toxicity, endocrine disrupting activity, mutagenicity, and neurotoxicity, several active ingredients require urgent regulatory measures. The most toxic and most commonly used ingredients are the insecticide chlorpyrifos, the herbicides acetochlor, glyphosate, and 2.4-D, and the fungicides mancozeb and chlorothalonil. Considering their environmental toxicity and widespread usage, immediate regulatory action is required for the insecticides chlorpyrifos and imidacloprid, the fungicide mancozeb, and the herbicides glyphosate, atrazine, and 2.4-D.
Additionally, even if some insecticides have low application volumes, it is crucial to regulate and withdraw these substances due to their demonstrated high levels of human or environmental toxicity. Notably, bifenthrin, dichlorvos, diazinon, carbaryl, fipronil, thiamethoxam, and carbendazim have already been banned in Europe, highlighting the urgent need for regulatory measures. The priority list provided in the report can guide the implementation of immediate actions and phase-out strategies for these active ingredients.
To achieve sustainable agriculture and uphold the right to healthy food and a healthy environment, the following actions are crucial:
- Phase out Highly Hazardous Products: Gradually eliminate the use of products containing harmful ingredients that jeopardize human health and the environment, following the prioritized list.
- Implement Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Strategies: Prioritize the adoption of IPM strategies, especially for crops like maize, wheat, coffee, potatoes, and tomatoes. These strategies combine various pest control methods, including biological controls, crop rotation, and cultural practices, reducing reliance on synthetic pesticides.
- Promote Access to Knowledge and Information: Ensure that farmers, including women, extension officers, and Agrovet shop owners, have access to relevant information and knowledge for making informed decisions about sustainable agricultural practices, including pest and disease management.
- Invest in Research on Biopesticides and Biocontrol Methods: Support research efforts to develop and promote biopesticides and biocontrol methods as alternatives to HHPs. Emphasize the registration process for biopesticides, giving them appropriate attention compared to hazardous pesticides.
- Ensure Affordability of Biopesticides: Make biopesticides affordable for all farmers, regardless of whether they export their products to Europe or not. This will encourage the widespread adoption of sustainable pest management practices, benefiting small-scale farmers.
- Address Corporate Accountability: Governments should hold agrochemical companies accountable by regulating and monitoring their activities, promoting transparency, and encouraging responsible practices that prioritize human health, environmental protection, and sustainable agriculture.
By taking these actions, we can promote a transformation towards sustainable agriculture, embracing agroecology principles while safeguarding the right to healthy food and a healthy environment.
The report is available for download here