Caution to Entrepreneurs! Pesticide use IS regulated in Kenya
September 6, 2008 1 Comment
Earlier this week I read an article on Africa Science News Service titled “Kenya lacks pesticide regulatory mechanisms”. In the article, the writer discussed the Kenyan agro-chemical industry and stated that farmers were especially at risk from hazardous chemicals. The article went onto say that only 25 per cent of farmers take any safety precautions during application of chemicals and “even the literate farmers find the wording on pesticide containers to be too technical”.
Immediately alarm bells rang in my head. I asked, then of what use is the Kenyan Pest Control & Products Board (PCPB)?
This statutory body under the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for ensuring that pesticides are safe not only for agricultural use, but also pose no toxic threats to humans, animals or the ecosystem. Indeed the Africa Science article made no such mention of this body which from my personal interaction with them, having gone through the process to register such a product are actually renowned as one of the most stringent bodies globally.
If the writer of the article had done more research, she would have actually found that the PCPB dossier to register a pesticide actually covers all the concerns for farmer safety outlined in the article. For instance, testing on chemical residues in soil and aquatic environments must be proven to be non harmful. Further, the PCPB also insists that stringent testing is undertaken to ensure that there are no health effects to humans attributable to hazardous substances including skin irritations, respiratory problems as a result of pesticide poisoning.
The article also discussed regulation as well as enforcement. The PCPB being a statutory body is governed by an Act which indeed stipulates penalties for selling products that do not comply with the Pest Boards standards. In fact it is that very fear of the penalties that makes entrepreneurs such as myself have to go through the PCPB registration system. Apart from hefty fines, penalties also cover closing down of factories, and confiscation of products – even from retailers. I can assure you, its most embarrassing to explain to your retailers why they have lost a lot of money when the PCPB inspectors confiscate the products straight of the shelf because you neglected to go through the process!
Registered pesticides also have to bear either temporary or permanent registration numbers making it easy for inspectors to confiscate those not displaying them. The Board also insists that pesticide labels be clear (both in English and Swahili) as well as include graphic depictions to ensure that the products are used in an appropriate manner. The person registering the product is also from the outset responsible for stating what quantities the product will be sold. This makes it illegal to sell any of the products in smaller quantities, and once again such products can be confiscated and penalties meted. In such cases both the supplier and retailer are liable for selling products that are not in their original packaging. The PCPB goes even further to state what advertising complies with the Act. With all that policing, I still wonder why the Board didn’t even make a paragraph in the article.
However, the Pest Control Products Board also needs to make its presence known in the agro-chemicals market. Unless it does the absence of knowledge about its regulatory mandate, will continue to allow many people to sell hazardous substances. This is especially so in the rural areas. Of course your unregistered products are more likely to be confiscated from Nakumatt or Uchumi than a small agro-vet shop in a rural area. Probably one of the ways more people can get to know the Board could be through the media. Since they regulate how pesticides can be advertised, let them also use the same media to let suppliers, retailers and indeed farmers know about them and proper use of pesticide products.
As a lay person with minimal knowledge in chemistry, the registration process took about 18 months, and I must say that the Pest Board officials were extremely helpful in guiding the filling of the dossier (and no, it didn’t take me that long to fill in a ten page form! Field testing also had to be done). During this time I actually saw the value of their work which ultimately is to protect the very users of those products – the Kenyan farmers.