In Kenya, the “Wild West” of pesticides.

In Swahili they are called Claim (” Medicine “). However, pesticides used on fruits and vegetables in rural areas of Kenya do not have a reputation for being good for farmers’ health. “Some people find their nose stings and makes it difficult to breathe.”, lists Mary Wambui, a farmer in Gichonjo, Kirinyaga County, an area in the center of the country dominated by Mount Kenya. In the foothills of the old volcano, agriculture is by far the primary activity and thousands of small producers grow both food crops or crops (corn, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes) for the local market and promised cash crops (coffee and tea) for export. . , of course, but also green beans, peas, etc.).

The land is fertile, the climate is good, but like everywhere in the tropical zone, there are many pests. So regularly, they “Spray”, “and to VsEvery time, if it touches your skin, it itches, and the same is the case for the eyes.says Alexander Njogu, a neighbor, rubbing his arm and pointing to his pupils to support his point.

If the amount of pesticides used per hectare remains low, compared to Europe for example, the share of products considered toxic is much higher in Kenya. Thus, 76% of these are classified as “highly hazardous pesticides” due to risks to health and the environment and almost half (44%) are banned within the European Union (EU), According to a study published in September 2023 by the Heinrich Böll FoundationClose to the German Greens.

Alexander Njogu after attending a presentation on organic farming in Gichonjo village in Kirinyaga County, Kenya on March 13, 2024.

In the East African country, which is the economic locomotive of its region, the problem is known, even at the top of the state: in mid-March, the vice-president of the National Assembly, Gladys Sholai, engaged in a long-running debate on the subject. , called for the fifteenth time to ban authorized products. In recent years, a handful of molecules have been banned, but many, “responsible for cancer” According to them, be accepted. In 2023, Kefis, the state plant health inspection agency, began investigating the link between these chemicals and an increase in cancer cases around Mount Kenya.

Small producers, who make up the majority of Kenyan agriculture, far ahead of the few modern and standardized farms, handle these toxic products without any protection. On dirt roads, you can easily see him, with a 20-litre sprayer on his back, spraying his area in a T-shirt, without a mask, with his feet on the ground. According to the Heinrich Böll Foundation, only one in six producers uses protective equipment.

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