Agrochemicals such as herbicides, fertilisers, fungicides, nemacides and insecticides are essential to the farming process. But many farmers in Kenya are not aware of the safety guidelines surrounding irresponsible dumping of chemicals or how it impacts the health of livestock.
This is according to Beatrice Kemboi, the director of business investment at Maraba Investment Ltd, an agrochemical distributor in Eldoret, western Kenya. She told FoodForAfrika.com that many Kenyan farmers – smallholder farmers in particular – are not aware of basic safety guidelines in dealing with agrochemicals, and that very little is done to ensure farmers protect both themselves and their livestock.
“There was a case a few years ago where one of my neighbours sprayed his crops with chemicals, and did not cover them afterward. He lost between 10 and 15 cows, because the crops were left open and the cows could eat them,” she said.
“Farmers do not know how to use agrochemicals, and no one teaches them how to. They do not know how to dump their containers, do not wear the correct personal protective clothes… they do not know.”
Kemboi adds that many farmers also reuse the containers their agrochemicals are stored in to transport water and milk.
Protecting your livestock
According to Dr Cilliers Louw of the South African Pork Producer’s Association, animal meat that is tainted by agrochemicals are dangerous to consume. “If humans eat contaminated meat they can also develop acute to chronic health problems that can lead to death, if not picked up early,” he said.
Louw added that farmers must immediately tend to animals that have consumed agrochemicals. “Firstly, you must prevent animals to come into contact with any chemical or biological product by properly storing all products. If for some reason animals did ingest product or their skin had contact with chemicals, you will have to call your closest veterinarian to assist. Practical steps while you wait depends on what chemical or products were incorrectly given, ingested or applied.”
Kemboi believes that smallholder farmers can benefit from educational drives, carried out either by the Kenyan government’s Pest Control Products Board (PCPD) or agrochemical manufacturers.
“Farmers are simply lacking the knowledge on how to handle agrochemicals, how to protect themselves and their livestock. It is very important that they are taught these basics, because it prevents farmers from having setbacks that they may not be able to afford. Smallholder farmers do not have the money commercial farmers have, and losing livestock could cost them their livelihood.”
She adds that there is a big problem around used, empty containers simply being tossed without care and polluting the natural environment. According to Kemboi, these agrochemical containers often wash up on the banks of rivers, causing concern that they may contaminate water sources as well.
“Its time manufacturers take responsibility.”
Here are some safety tips from Louw:
The basic personal protective farmers or workers should wear when dealing with agrochemicals include:
“Record keeping of PPE [personal protective equipment] is very important and knowing who has what. Training of all staff is key to success and specifically training on why they need to wear PPE and when.”
- Protective eye wear
- Hand gloves
What to do if your one of your animals has ingested an agrochemical:
- Try and let animal vomit it out, which can be difficult depending on type of animal.
- Give activated charcoal to help bind chemical and prevent absorption.
- Keep the animal in a dark stress free area away from other animals. Make sure there are no objects in the area that could cause harm to animal if they start having a fit or seizure.