Regulate use of chemicals in agriculture, CSOs tell govt

There are various ways of dealing with weeds on the farm such as using herbicides. There are, however, limitations to the methods that farmers should note. PHOTO BY MICHAEL J. SSALI

What you need to know:

  • Shs770 loss. Uganda is estimated to lose approximately $200m (Shs770 billion) in exports of agricultural products to markets in the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom due to among others, using agrochemicals that have been banned worldwide. 

Large quantities of banned agrochemicals, including pesticides, are still in use, an analysis conducted by a combined team of concerned civil society organisations (CSOs) researchers and agriculture sector experts, has revealed.    

They noted that there is increasing use and promotion of agro-chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, commodity chemicals and fertilisers despite some of them being known to be hazardous to human health and the environment. 

The analysis released yesterday indicated the counterfeit pesticide levels may be more than 40 percent in Uganda. 

As a result SEATINI Uganda, Food Rights Alliance , Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights, the African Institute for Culture and Ecology and the National Association of Professional Environmentalists are concerned over government’s continued failure to ban the use of hazardous agro-chemicals such Glyphosate Based Herbicides (GBHs).

In the pursuit of agricultural commercialisation which is geared towards increasing agricultural production, the demand for agro-chemicals is increasing, given that such a model of agriculture is chemical/fertilizer-intensive. The Annual Agricultural Survey (AAS) 2018 results indicate that about 21 percent of agricultural households used agro-chemicals. 

The good news, however, is that government has set up a committee to investigate the effectiveness of agrochemicals and animal health products in Uganda. 

However, Ms Agnes Kirabo, the Executive Director of Food Rights Alliance,  says there is inconsistence in policy and practice.  

She said: “We are in danger of being the walking dead, if nothing is done quickly to stop the continued use of chemicals across the agricultural value chains, especially during harvesting, storage and transportation.”   

Mr David Kabanda, the executive director of CEFROHT,  said the poor monitoring and enforcement of agrochemical regulations and gaps in the laws and policies have worked in favour of increasing the sale of hazardous agrochemicals. 

Mr Denis Tabaro, the executive director of AFRICE, said pesticides have grossly destroyed biodiversity, an important component for crop growth.  

He said the loss of pollinators, for instance bees, beetles, butterflies and birds due to chemicals, has a direct effect on crop-cross pollination, fertilisation failure and yielding.

Presenting a statement yesterday at SEATINI offices in Kampala, Ms Jane Nalunga, the SEATINI Uganda Executive director, said due to the unregulated marketing, farmers are lured into buying  counterfeit and substandard  agro-chemicals.  

She said farmers lack minimal training, lack adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and are often unable to read labels that are usually the only source of safety instructions. 

Ms Nalunga also told Journalist yesterday in a news conference that the problem is further complicated by the country’s rapid market liberalisation which has created a situation of widespread promotion of agro-chemicals and availability of cheap, poor-quality products, including counterfeits. 

As a result, Uganda has been losing lucrative markets for its agricultural products in a number of markets at national, continental and global levels