Source: FAO Regional Office for Africa |

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Swedish Chemicals Agency join hands to support Zambia and Zimbabwe to reduce risks of Highly Hazardous Pesticides

As part of the workshop the delegates compared lists of identified HHPs, shared experiences of pesticide risk and needs assessment for HHPs and jointly identified viable alternatives

ACCRA, Ghana, May 20, 2024/APO Group/ --

Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) cause severe and irreversible harm to the environment and human health. They result in millions of involuntary poisoning cases each year, especially in low- and middle-income countries, with women and children working in agricultural environments the worst affected.

To help phase out these highly toxic pesticides, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) joined hands with the Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI) to support Zimbabwe and Zambia to reduce risks of Highly Hazardous Pesticides through a peer learning & exchange workshop between pesticide regulators from Zambia and Zimbabwe, that was held in Harare from 8 to 9 May 2024.

The workshop was attended by 14 pesticide regulators, from the Zambia Environmental Management Agency accompanied by a senior technical advisor from the Swedish Chemicals Agency, Zimbabwean counterparts from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development (MLAFWRD), Ministry of Health and Childcare (MoHCC) and technical officers from FAO.

As part of the workshop the delegates compared lists of identified HHPs, shared experiences of pesticide risk and needs assessment for HHPs and jointly identified viable alternatives. The engagement culminated in the development of draft risk mitigation plans, and information exchange on the status of HHP identification and needs assessment in Zambia and Zimbabwe. The pesticide regulators also compared the status and gaps in their respective pesticide regulatory frameworks. Both parties deemed the workshop timely for the development and update of draft regulatory frameworks on pesticides, especially in their national efforts to reduce HHP risks.

Why do HHPs need special attention?

“With HHPs, every precaution is imperative for they hold the power to impact human health and the ecosystem profoundly. Meticulous care is not just a preference but a global necessity,” Nkole Chanda, Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) Inspector

Highly hazardous pesticides are a development and human right issue that calls for global action. The impacts of their use are felt much beyond the field and can affect human health, biodiversity and natural resources, international trade. It is estimated that 385 million cases of unintentional pesticide poisoning occur annually world-wide including around 11,000 fatalities, translating 44 percent of farmers around the world being poisoned annually.

To limit the impacts of HHPs on human health and the environment, FAO and WHO developed the ‘International Guidelines on Highly Hazardous Pesticides to provide Governments and other stakeholders with stepwise guidance on HHP risk reduction.’

According to Ivy Saunyama, FAO Agricultural Officer, the HHP Guidelines recommend a clear step wise approach for HHP risk reduction comprising 3 steps namely identification, assessment (needs and risk assessment) and mitigation and list the eight (8) criteria that should be used to identify HHPs. Zambia and Zimbabwe have both followed these criteria in HHP identification, making it easier to compare notes, and come up with common solutions as far as possible.

The regulators from both countries highlighted that it was possible to increase agricultural productivity with limited use of HHPs by promotion alternatives, with emphasis on the use of less hazardous alternatives, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices that preserve ecosystem, product management measures to enhance proper use and risk reduction, like training farmers in proper use, ensuring availability and use of PPE, precautionary label statements.

“By reducing the reliance on highly hazardous pesticides and promoting lower risk alternatives, it is possible to protect human health, safeguard the environment and ensure food security everywhere, every day,” added Memory Mahofa, Agricultural Economist in the department of Strategic Planning and Business Development under Zimbabwe’s, MLAFWRD.

We can feed the world without highly hazardous pesticides

The workshop ended with stakeholders calling for an end of use to HHPs and asserting that it was possible to feed the world without the use of highly hazardous pesticides, especially considering that HHPs constitute only a small percentage of registered pesticides in any country (6-13 percent) and safer alternatives exist.

“Feeding the two nations without the use of highly hazardous pesticides is possible if we work together. It is good that the governments of Zimbabwe and Zambia have already started working together to phase out HHPs,” added Daisy Ndlovu, environmental health officer at National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), Zimbabwe.

As part of working together, the two countries agreed on the formulation of a harmonized HHP Mitigation Strategy that would help strengthen the regulation of HHPs, while calling upon government authorities and the pesticide industry to have the political will to stop the use of HPPs.

“We are strengthening the regulation of HHPs through discussions on formulating a harmonized HHP Mitigation Strategy, which will help phase out HHPs not only in the two countries but across the Southern Africa region,” said Shengai Mwale, the Principal Research Officer under the Agricultural Research, Innovation and Specialist Services Directorate, MoLAFWRD.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of FAO Regional Office for Africa.