The East African Community (EAC) is seeking ways to harmonise pesticide management guidelines, a move expected to help the region increase farm produce and address post-harvest losses.
One of the pests that the new effort could help tackle is fall armyworm, which threatens to cause hunger to over 300 million people in Africa as the crop-damaging pest has so far attacked 45 of the 55 continent’s countries, affecting millions of hectares of maize plantations, according the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
At a validation workshop in Kigali, which closed yesterday, experts said harmonised pesticide regulation will reduce risks associated with pesticides, improve trade and safeguard human health and the environment.
Under the harmonised policy, the registration, inspection, use and management of pesticides will become cost-effective as the member states will be pulling in the same direction for better results, according to the deputy secretary-general of the EAC in charge of productive and social sectors, Christophe Bazivamo.
Bazivamo said EAC partner states face food insecurity due to various factors, including low farm productivity and post-harvest losses estimated at between 30 and 40 percent, which could be addressed with a harmonised policy on pesticides.
The pesticides, in most cases, he said, come from outside the region.
Bazivamo added that lack of a harmonised policy has resulted into importation of counterfeit products, which may be dangerous to human health.
There is need to work together to prevent undesirable results or harm, he added.
“Lack of a harmonised policy means that fake products which have entered one partner state end up in the others as well,” said Bazivamo.
Efficiency in pesticide management
Also, with harmonisation, when one product has been registered in one partner state, there is no need for it to undergo the same process in another partner state.
“This becomes cost-effective. Inspections can be done jointly. When there is this kind of trust, then it becomes very easy and cost-effective because there is no need of repeating the same process in the different partner states,” Bazivamo noted.
Mary Teddy Asio, the principal agriculture officer at the EAC affairs ministry in Uganda, said to determine effectiveness of pesticides there is need to conduct comprehensive trials in dry and rainy seasons at different sites.
The tests, experts argue, should target specific crop varieties, for instance, lowland maize or rice, versus upland maize or rice.
According to Evariste Safari, the head of Rwanda Agriculture Inputs Dealers Association (RAIDA), the harmonisation of the pesticide programme in EAC will ease testing, registration, and business of pesticides.
“I think we will have a list of pesticides that are allowed or not allowed in one country such that another country does not waste efforts working on the same list. This development will help dealers, governments, private sector and farmers, because for us to accept a pesticide, it will have been approved as genuine for farmers,” he said.
Bazivamo said the harmonisation document will be taken to the Council of Agriculture for fine-tuning, which is expected in May, and then to the EAC Council of Ministers for adoption by November.
The document recommends that an online-based registration system be established to allow for easy access to information about registered pesticides by all the six EAC partner states (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Sudan).
Agriculture accounts for about 32 per cent of EAC’s combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $146 billion as per EAC statistics for 2016.