The current economic boom in many sub-Saharan countries is accompanied by an unprecedented increase in noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) due to industrial pollution, including pesticides. While local and international mobilisations call for more stringent pesticide control measures, African governments often refrain from adopting and enforcing strict regulations – considered as potential obstacles to “development”.
Yet, pesticide-related health risks are exacerbated in Africa by the inadequacy of regulatory frameworks and the weakness, or inexistence, of surveillance and control systems. As a result, the import, production, and use of pesticides takes place without the legal safeguards and institutional counterweights ensuring that public health concerns receive adequate attention in a political context where “development”, narrowly defined as economic growth, and “food security”, with a single dominant focus on increased agricultural production, are the overriding priorities.
In May 2019, researchers in social sciences and public health, as well as members of administrations and NGOs involved in pesticide regulation came together to deliberate on issues surrounding the use, regulation, and negative health impacts of Agrochemicals in sub-Saharan African countries for the Pesticide Politics in Africa international conference in Arusha, Tanzania.
Action 24-supported organisation, the South African Organic Sector Organisation (SAOSO) was represented at the conference by Sasha Mentz-Lagrange, an independent researcher and consultant with over a decade of experience in sustainable development and climate change. “The conference took stock of the alarming trends in pesticide usage in Africa, and the fact that there is no safe use of pesticides in the current conditions of use,” says Mentz-Lagrange.
Mentz-Lagrange attended the Pesticide Politics in Africa conference in order to present a paper on GMO & Poison Free Zones – a SAOSO citizen-based initiative aimed at raising awareness and driving policy changes in pesticide management legislation in South Africa.
At the close, the conference also made a call for action for discontinuing pesticide use across the African continent, that was supported by forty-six conference participants. Directed at the Commission of the African Union, the Conference of the Heads of State of the African Union, the Conferences of the Ministers of Agriculture and Health of the African Union, pesticide companies, and international organisations such as the United Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund; The Arusha Call for Action on Pesticides demands action to protect the environment and human health from synthetic pesticides.
The main asks of The Arusha Call for Action on Pesticides include:
An immediate ban on highly hazardous pesticides shown to contribute to non-communicable diseases and reproductive disorders
Making publicly available all information on the toxicity of pesticides for human health and ecosystems, and data on pesticide residues in food products and the environment
Establishing effective surveillance systems of acute and chronic pesticide poisoning and environmental monitoring and pesticide residues in food, including the establishment of accredited laboratories
Ensuring training of health care providers on management of pesticide poisoning
Ensuring inter-ministerial cooperation for pesticide poisoning prevention
Harmonizing regulatory systems within Africa and the effective implementation of the international conventions, agreements and protocols related to pesticides to which they are party
Implementing, monitoring, and strict enforcement of pesticide regulations
Making pesticide producers, importers, and promoters accountable for the effects of their products on human health and the environment, and obliging them to put in place a system to collect empty pesticide containers, based on incentive mechanisms
Phasing out subsidies and tax regimes that favour pesticide use
Promoting agro-ecological farming, training and extension, as well as research on alternatives to synthetic pest control, supported by accredited laboratories and direct farmer support with mechanical alternatives
Download the full call for action in either English or French:
You can take action for a GMO and poison-free future today by supporting the South African Organic Sector Organisation’s petition to have the Draft Organic Policy and Draft Agroecology Strategy raised in Parliament!
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