Highly Hazardous Pesticides: A Threat to Kenyan Health and Environment

Press release

The Route to Food Initiative (RTFI) a programme of the Heinrich Böll Foundation has released the first ever report based on empirical data on Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) in Kenya. 

Pesticides spraying

The Route to Food Initiative (RTFI) a programme of the Heinrich Böll Foundation today released the first ever report based on empirical data on Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) in Kenya. The report Toxic Business; Highly Hazardous Pesticides in Kenya” presents analyses on actual data of pesticides used in 2020 in Kenya. It shows that immediate action is necessary to protect human health, the environment, and the right to healthy food in Kenya.

The pesticide market in Kenya has experienced significant growth in recent years. In 2020 farmers in Kenya used a total of 310 pesticide products containing 151 active ingredients during the reporting period. These pesticides were applied to control insects, diseases, and weeds on 26 different crops, resulting in a total expenditure of $72.7 million.

Speaking during the launch of the report, Joachim Paul, Director, Heinrich Böll Foundation Nairobi, noted that “Empirical data is crucial to support the phasing out of Highly Hazardous Pesticides in Kenya. However, official data on national pesticide use is not publicly available. This report addresses this gap”.

Notably, a concerning 63% of pesticides products are categorized as Highly Hazardous contributing to a staggering 76% of the total pesticide volume used. Shockingly, almost half of the pesticides used in Kenya (44%) of the total volume are already banned in the European Union due to their unacceptable risks to human health and the environment. Kenya shouldn’t be any different!

Among the top 30 pesticide products in terms of volume, the majority are HHPs as well. The largely Chinese owned Swiss company, Syngenta leads the pesticides market in Kenya with a 20% market share of which 68% of their products contain HHPs, followed by Bayer AG (15%) of which 84% are HHPs. Corteva Agriscience™ (7.7%), FMC Corporation (5.7%), and Adama Agricultural Solutions (4.4%).

Common food items in Kenya households such as Maize, wheat, coffee, potatoes, kales and tomatoes require the largest volumes of pesticides, with a heavy reliance on HHPs. These crops are exposed to a range of toxic substances, posing significant threats to both consumers and the environment.

Only six out of the 310 pesticide products used in Kenya are biopesticides, accounting for a mere 2% (47.3 t) of the total pesticide volume. Meanwhile, Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) account for a shocking 76% of the total volume used.  This huge disparity indicates the urgent need to need to promote biopesticides. Immediate regulatory action is also needed for several active ingredients, including insecticides chlorpyrifos and imidacloprid, herbicides glyphosate, atrazine, and 2,4-D, and fungicides mancozeb and chlorothalonil.

The report comes at the back drop of a recent announcement by Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) dated 10th July 2023, to review the status of some active ingredients on selected pesticides, considered as (HHPs) for phased withdrawal by December 2024.

“We acknowledge and applaud PCPB’s move to withdraw seven active ingredients by December 2024. This is a step in right direction in prioritizing Kenya’s food safety. However, more needs to be done. Pesticides such as mancozeb/ metalaxyl-M, paraquat, mesotrione and imidacloprid still pose significant health and environment impacts and need to be withdrawn immediately” added Harun Warui, Lead Programme Coordinator, Food rights and Agroecology at Heinrich Böll Foundation and Coordinator of the Right to Food Initiative.

The most toxic and most commonly used active ingredients in Kenya such as chlorpyrifos, acetochlor, glyphosate, 2,4-D, mancozeb and chlorothalonil, emphasize the urgent need immediate withdrawal due to their detrimental effects to human health and the environment.

Active ingredients, such as bifenthrin, dichlorvos, diazinon, carbaryl, fipronil, thiamethoxam, and carbendazim, have already been banned in Europe, highlighting the urgent need for regulatory measures in Kenya.

Findings of Highly Hazardous Pesticides report emphasize the need for immediate action to protect our health, environment, and the right to healthy food. Route to Food Initiative calls upon the Kenyan government, agrochemical companies, and civil society to work together to address these critical issues.

This press release was circulated and published in the Kenyan media. 

You can find full report for download here