Agriculture is one of East Africa’s most important sectors, with about 80 percent of the population of the region living in rural areas and depending on agriculture for their livelihood. Food produced is for home consumption, processing and also for export.
Climate change and its impacts such as drought has caused food insecurity in some parts of East Africa.
Intensification of agriculture is leading to an increase in the use of pesticides. Regional collaboration is key to strengthen pesticide risk assessment and registration processes in the region.
In a bid to support the efforts of East African countries to ensure food security and safeguard food safety, FAO facilitated a two year process to develop harmonized pesticide management guidelines to foster some level of common understanding and common approach.
Agriculturalists, researchers, agronomists, policy makers and representatives from the seed and crop industry from five countries in East Africa, including; Rwanda, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, gathered in Kigali, for a regional multi-stakeholder workshop to validate pesticide management guidelines and review the strategy on risk reduction of highly hazardous pesticides in the East African Community (EAC).
Prior to the fourth and last session in Kigali from March 19-21, 2018, several consultation meetings had been conducted in EAC member states to develop the guidelines (South Sudan became involved during the review and validation meeting in Kigali). Other stakeholders in the agriculture sector provided inputs into the guidelines including the East African Civil Society Organizations’ Forum (EACSOF), Eastern African Grain Council and CropLife.
The harmonized guidelines were validated in three areas; efficacy testing, pesticide residue testing and data requirements for pesticide registration.
Mary Teddy Asio, Principal Agricultural Officer in the Ministry of EAC Affairs in Uganda, said that “This is a good opportunity to streamline whatever is done as a region so that we move together to enable the agriculture sector to flourish” said Mary.
Considering countries’ Agro-ecological difference
During the development of the guidelines, each country was able to state their need in terms of the harmonization of pesticide registration, as well as concerns when it comes to Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs).
Joseph Kibaki, regulatory and development manager at Croplife said that the FAO guidelines were helpful as the countries had to insert their individual requirements depending on the prevailing conditions. “The quality of the working documents by FAO were very good. The countries had to align their understanding on pesticide management,” says Joseph.
“The guidelines will strengthen pesticide risk assessment and contribute to the reduction of the environmental footprint and health impacts of highly hazardous pesticides under the conditions of use in East Africa.” says Mathew Abang, Crop Production Officer, FAO Sub-regional Office for Eastern Africa.
Improving the marketability of the region’s products
EAC countries are pushing for increased export of their agriculture produce to boost their export revenues. However, with the region now grappling with pests such as the fall armyworm, pesticides have been the option of choice; yet the region’s big markets such as the EU and Middle East impose strict standards and measures on pesticide use and food safety.
EAC Deputy Secretary General, Christopher Bazivamo emphasized that regional collaboration among pesticide legislators may be the only way forward to mitigate risks to human health and environment.
“Harmonization of pesticide registration among EAC member countries will harness limited resources within the region to improve trade and provide better protection for the population and environment from toxic pesticide control products,” says Bazivamo
Maximizing the limited resources
In the face of the reality of inadequate capacities, facilities, and technical know-how in the region, through mutual recognition countries will be able to share the limited resources in risk analysis as well as reduce the burden of work done at each registration office.
“As countries improve collaborative work at regional level, it will no longer be necessary to have a facility in every country but we can have regional labs and other facilities, so that even countries that are less advantaged can benefit from the same,” says Mary Asio.
The executive director of Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC) Gerald Masila lauded the guidelines saying they will bring about order and streamline pesticide management in the agricultural sector.
Boosting regional integration
In the implementation of the guidelines, mutual recognition will be key in achieving better results. This means that if pesticide studies are conducted in one country in the region they can be accepted in another country. This will, in turn, help to streamline the process of registration, make it more transparent and ensure it is done well with proper guidance.
The element of mutual recognition cuts down on time and cost and increases the reliability of the pesticide evaluations.
“Mutual recognition will fast-track regional integration,” Bazivamo noted
The EAC Secretariat will fast-track submission of the guidelines to the EAC Sectoral Council on Agriculture and Food Security as well as the Council of Ministers for adoption and approval respectively.
EAC Partner States are to fast-track domestication and commence national implementation of the pesticides management guidelines soon after adoption by the Council of Ministers.
The countries will look to build the capacity in pesticide registration, develop infrastructure, and put in place regulations and legislations on accepting each other’s efficacy trials and data requirements.
The Partner States’ pesticides regulatory authorities, national and regional agrochemicals associations will play an important role in sensitizing their members to properly implement the guidelines.