Farmers have for a long time used pesticides to kill the pests and insects which attack crops. The use of pesticides has increased many folds over the past few decades with an estimated 2.4 billion kilograms of pesticides used worldwide every year. This increasingly alarming figure raises concern over the effects and impact of these pesticides on the environment.
The lurking risks of pesticide use on the environment and health of consumers has not gone unnoticed amongst relevant authorities. Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) have been working together to ensure that the risks posed by prolonged use of pesticides are minimized. They also conduct tests to inform the public of the effects of the pesticide before, during and after.
So what are the dangers of prolonged pesticide use?
- Soil Contamination
Extensive use of pesticides can degrade and damage the microorganisms living in the soil such as earthworms, bacteria, fungi, algae, etc. which heavily contribute to the decomposing of organic matter, cycling of nutrients and fertilizing the soil. This means toxicity of pesticides disrupts the soil structure which in turn results to poor quality yields.
- Water Contamination
There are different ways pesticide residue gets into water: Accidental spillage, industrial discharge, surface run off from pesticide treated soils, washing of spray equipment after spray operation, among others. The impact of a pesticide is influenced by its solubility and absorption in water. This results to a depleted aquatic ecosystem, a contaminated food chain and lack of drinking water for humans. Contaminated water systems in the long run harms the economy of a Country.
- Acute or Chronic Effects on Humans
The harmful effects of pesticides on human health develop due to their toxicity and persistence in the environment and ability to enter the food chain. Pesticides can enter the human body through direct contact with chemicals, e.g. consumption of contaminated fruits and vegetables, drinking contaminated water or breathing in polluted air.
The severity of these risks is normally associated with toxicity and quantity of the agents used, mode of application, length and frequency of contact with pesticides and person that is exposed during application. Further, use of pesticides with active ingredients and banned products that contain carcinogenic elements.
Mitigation of Pesticide Overuse
Farmers can adapt to the use of bio pesticides which are said to be slow reactors but are less harmful compared to pesticides that have active ingredients that are harmful to the soil, water, air and human consumption.
Pest Control Product Board (PCPB) can ensure stringent measures and regulations are followed by vendors of pesticides, by ensuring the products they sell for agricultural use are up to acceptable standards and any active ingredient banned in any manufacturing Country is not allowed usage in Kenya.