Excessive abuse of agro-chemical, threat to consumers and environment

The abuse of agro-chemicals as well as using untrained hands to administer these chemicals on farmlands has been identified as a great bane to agricultural productivity, toxicity of the farmland, resulting in inadequate yields and climate-related effects.

Meanwhile, Agriculture is said to be the mainstay of the Ghanaian economy and employs over 70% of the population and a significant contributor to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Mr. William Darko, the Coordinator of Africa Needs International, in a research report, advocated the strict compliance of the Pesticides and Fertilizer Act. (Act 803), to streamline the activities of Agro-chemical dealers and users to safeguard the health of consumers, sustain the labour force of the country, food security and mitigate climate change effects.

The research and advocacy work was financed by the BUSAC fund.

Pesticides and fertilizers are major inputs that account for increasing crop yields and farm profits and the Food and Agricultural Organisation reports (2015) estimated that between 20% and 40% of global crop yields are reduced each year due to the damage by the pest, hence the increasing demand of the commodities.

The projection made by FAO (2015) also shows that global fertilizer use is likely to rise above 200.million metric tons due to growing demands for food production due to the population explosion.

Mr. Darko said the importance of pesticides and fertilizers could not be overemphasized in farming, but the proliferation of agro-inputs outlets within all farming communities without the requisite skills on mode of application had become a danger to human lives and water resources, a situation that needed to be averted.

He said the imminent danger was the use of unskilled shop attendants with no basic knowledge of calibration and usage of agrochemicals with most of them unlicensed.

There are about 700 rural retailers of fertilizers spread throughout Ghana.

He said a research document from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Fertilizer Development Centre (IFDC) states that 80% of agricultural inputs dealers sell fertilizers, 91% sell crop protection chemicals and 51% sell seeds.

Mr. Darko pointed out that the data consolidated the fact that pesticides and fertilizers were sold by all retail outlets, hence frantic efforts must be made to regulate the activities of dealers, retailers and users at large.

Citing examples of abuse, he mentioned an incidence in the early part of 2018, where four people died from residual contamination of agrochemicals at "Dua da so", a farming community at Akyemansa district, with several people treated and discharged from the hospital.

In Accra, in the same year, three children died when their parents sprayed their room with agro pesticide, adding that, "This gives a clear picture of the magnitude of the problem and the extent to which it affects productivity and threatens lives if its sales are not properly regulated."

Mr. Darko said the continuous pollution of the environment through pesticides and fertilizers use and improper disposal, could adversely affect the climate, create environmental hazards, cause pollution of water bodies and pose food insecurity problems for the country.

He called on the Pesticide and Fertilizer Regulatory Division (PFRD), the legally mandated entity, to act promptly on the matter to avoid the growing lapses in the agricultural sector.

Act 2010 (Act 803) enjoins the PERD to supervise and train regulatory inspectors, register and train pesticide and fertilizer dealers, take records and statistics of pesticides and fertilizers, manage pesticide and fertilizer stocks in the country.

They are also to supervise bio-efficacy trials on pesticides and fertilizers by research institutions and to remove obsolete and unwanted Agro-chemicals from the market.

The Coordinator said, "it appears they are not working to the expectation of farmers and consumers as many fertilizer and pesticide dealers continue to do their own thing without any punitive measures".

Meanwhile, the Act suggests a four-year jail term for people who fall flout the law.

The lack of control and monitoring had resulted in either overutilization or underutilization of the chemical, resulting in crop failure, contamination of food crops and food poisoning of consumers.