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Report: Kenyan farmers use Highly Hazardous Pesticides despite known dangers

According to a report, “Toxic Business: Highly Hazardous Pesticides In Kenya”, released today (13th September 2023) Kenyan farmers predominantly use Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs), despite their known detrimental effects on human health and the environment. Pesticide residues have been found to exceed limits in Kenyan food, particularly tomatoes, and kale.

The study conducted by Route to Food Initiative, a programme funded by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Kenya, reveals that in the last few years, 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. 

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Limited progress has been made in implementing stricter regulations and phasing out toxic pesticides raising concerns about food safety and environmental impact.

Pesticide use data

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 different crops.

Farmers spent $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%) contained one or two active ingredients that are categorized as Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) in Kenya. This accounted for 76 per cent of the total volume of pesticides used. 

Notably, 44 per cent 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.

Product use 

Among the top 30 pesticide products used in terms of volume, the majority are highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) as well. 

*Brackets() indicate Highly Hazardous active ingredient

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 per cent 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.

Brand owners

A total of 73 different companies serve as brand-owners for the products used in Kenya.

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Syngenta leads the pesticides market with a 20 per cent market share, followed by Bayer AG with 15 per cent, Corteva Agriscience™ with 7.7 per cent, FMC Corporation with 5.7 per cent, and Adama Agricultural Solutions with 4.4 per cent.

Syngenta sells 40 products with the highest volume of pesticides in Kenya (544 t), of which 68 per cent 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 sells 39 products with a total volume of 286 t, of which 84 per cent 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).

Photo Courtesy: Route to Food Initiative

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