Stakeholders in the cocoa value chain have urged the government to tighten pesticide approval process to avert the adverse effects on the environment.
The stakeholders believe that highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) pose grave dangers to cocoa farmers, their families and communities in Ghana and across West Africa. In a communique issued to the media, both state and non-state actors agreed that though pesticides are used to boost crop production in the short term, the persistent misuse of pesticides adversely pose great risks to the health of farmers and the environment in the long term.
The group indicated that the continuous over-dependence on unapproved pesticides (including highly hazardous pesticides) could result from limited access to approved pesticides or alternatives. Weak enforcement of regulations, influence of pesticide manufacturers and high cost of approved pesticides have led to the proliferation of unapproved pesticides.
The stakeholders noted that the use of unapproved (especially highly hazardous) pesticides in cocoa production is a risk to the human right to health, the human right to safe and healthy working conditions as well as the human right to a healthy environment. This can only be addressed with a collective effort of both state and non-state actors in Cocoa producing and consuming countries.
They indicated that though pesticide use boosts cocoa production in the short term, the persistent misuse of pesticides adversely poses great risk to the health of farmers and the environment in the long term. The stakeholders proposed that EPA should strongly consider withdrawing its approval for pesticides that are no longer recommended by COCOBOD for use in Cocoa. “Government agencies and local authorities (MMDAs) should therefore ensure that certified retailers sell only approved pesticides to cocoa farmers and all actors on the value chain go through routine medical check-ups to reduce the health-related risk associated with contact with pesticides,” they stated.
Human and Logistical Capacity of Agencies
The stakeholders in the cocoa value chain further proposed that the human and logistical capacity of agencies statutorily responsible for enforcement of laws and regulations in respect of the production, importation, supply and use of pesticides in the country should be strengthened.
The security agencies at the borders should prevent the entry of unapproved pesticides into the country. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Ghana Standard Authority (GSA), Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Research, Academia, and the Ghana Health Service (GHS) should be strengthened to regularly monitor pesticide residue levels for actions to be taken.
The certified agro-input dealers, mass sprayers and farmers should be continuously educated on the risk of using pesticides without strict compliance to use, storage and disposal of used containers. The production of Personal Protective Equipment’s (PPEs) should suit the local weather conditions to motivate sprayers to use them.
Moreover, they noted that there should be periodic monitoring and evaluation of the chemical pesticide industry to determine the types of pesticides on the Ghanaian market (percentage of approved and unapproved), the source of introduction, the impacts on cost of production, the impacts of application on human health and the environment and availability of alternatives.
To efficiently regulate the use of pesticide for agricultural production, Ghanaian government in collaboration with other actors such as research institutions/academia should establish a database to generate relevant and reliable data to highlight and properly document the effect of pesticides on production, human health and the environment in order to review public policy and programs to address any negative effects. This will enable the country to develop and promote minimum standards to ensure safety of farmers and the public from pesticide poisoning as well as chronic health effects of pesticides.
They also proposed that there should be sustained community education and public awareness about the effects of pesticides on human health and the environment along the entire value chain. While many producers and consumers are aware of the beneficial effects of pesticides in enhancing farm produce and productivity resulting from control of pest and disease incidence, there is still a large number of persons that may be ignorant about the adverse effects of misuse of pesticides on humans and the environment.
The public education could be complemented with on-farm training for producers, input dealers, sprayers, farm families, and community members in efficient use of pesticides to reduce the risk to humans and the environment.
Finally, there should be investment in research into alternatives and local production of approved pesticides. Government and the private sector should invest in research into alternative pest control methods such as Integrated Pest Management, biopesticides and agroecological approaches within the country in order to enhance their availability and affordability.
According to the stakeholders, this may likely reduce the patronage of low cost unapproved and often highly hazardous pesticides on the local market. The promotion of alternatives amongst cocoa farmers could also reduce the risk of application to human health and the environment and contribute to more sustainable cocoa production.