Exposure to farm-use pesticides and chemicals is detrimental to human health

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Director of Technical Services Network at the National Environment Agency (NEA) has disclosed that exposure to pesticides and chemicals in farmlands, rice-fields and gardens have a high toll on human health especially the farmers and gardeners. He said The Gambia has recognized the need to explore safer alternatives to synthetic pesticides for use in agricultural activities.

Dr. Dawda Badji made the disclosure at a two-day national training for over 40 market gardeners and farmers on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in crop production and post-harvest management, with particular focus on use of bio-botanical pesticides, recently held at the Agricultural Rural Farmer Training Center in Jenoi, Lower River Region.

He also revealed that the objectives of the training of trainers is to build capacity of market gardeners on various approaches to pest control methods with particular emphasis on production and use of bio- botanical pesticides to control pests in staple food crops with the view to protect human health and the environment.

According to Dr. Badji, the training will avail participants the opportunity to improve technologies in organic pest management which, he said are derived from local trees and plants that go a long way in improve gardening activities and enhance farm produce that is devoid of pesticide residues which can negatively impact the health of consumers. “Most of these plants and trees are easily available within our surrounding environment,” he said.

Dr. Badji said The Gambia is a Party to the Stockholm Convention and has since understood the health concerns resulting in local exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), and the negative impacts levied upon farmers, pesticide distributors, women gardeners and food consumers within communities. “Considering the low level of awareness of our local communities on chemical utilization and management, this necessitated NEA to organize this TOT training, and I therefore call for holistic and integrated approach in pesticide and chemical management from all stakeholders.”

He however revealed that chemicals are important determinants for sustainable development, sound environmental health and quality of life, as the uses of chemicals in all human activities (e.g. agriculture, health, energy production, manufacture, services and residential) contribute to improving the quality of life. But he warned that alarm and concerns have been raised on its harmful effects on workers, consumers, the environment and society at large through exposure.

Dr. Badji further warned that accidental releases of pesticides and chemicals from distribution, consumption and disposal may permanently damage soil, water and air quality, as reports of chemical incidents have been very common within the farming populace and their families.

Omar Bah, registrar of pesticides and hazardous chemicals at NEA disclosed that according to the Rotterdam Convention, there has been an increasing growth in chemicals production and trade during the past three decades which is raising both public and official concerns about the potential risks posed by hazardous chemicals and pesticides.

He said this became more alarming for vulnerable countries lacking adequate infrastructure to monitor the import and use of these chemicals, especially in developing countries which may pose significant risks to human health or the environment, because risk reduction measures such as the use of personal protective equipment or maintenance and calibration of pesticide application equipment are not implemented or are not effective.

He said agriculture is a main driver of Gambia’s economy, employing almost half of the working population, and higher percentage of the rural working population. In addition, he said the sector provides livelihoods for majority of the population. “Groundnut is the main cash crop, and accounts for 30% and 50% of foreign exchange earnings, and national food requirements, respectively

Mr. Bah said the training could not have come at a better time when The Gambia is putting lot of efforts towards resilience building against the impacts of climate change and variability among its increasing population through the promotion of increased agricultural production and productivity for food security, improved nutrition, and poverty alleviation amongst others. 

Author: Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang