Safe and Effective Use of Pesticides

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Kelvin Kigen, a sales representative at Favor Machinery Ltd demonstrating how to use a Knapsack Power Sprayer at the Central Kenya National Show, Nyeri on 16th Sept 2017. (PIC: Japhet Ruto, FarmBiz Africa)

Pesticides are chemicals used to control pests, weeds or diseases in crops and livestock. These chemicals play a crucial role in agricultural production, a key sector for smallholder farmers in Kenya who produce about 70% of the food in the country. It is therefore important for farmers to understand that pesticides are poisons with varying degrees of toxicity to man, animals and other non-targets in the environment.

In developing countries, frequent exposure to pesticides by farmers and farm workers is very common. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) estimate pesticide poisoning rates at 2-3 people per minute. It has been argued that pesticide-related health issues constitute a serious threat to development and can easily reverse or undermine the gains made in agricultural growth.

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The correct usage of pesticides according to the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) includes proper sourcing, preparing, applying, storage and disposal. The main aim of using pesticides is to maximize their benefits while minimizing risks to the operators, the public and the environment.

Before using pesticides, the following MUST be considered:

  • Only use registered products – those bearing a PCPB registration number PCPB (CR) #### on the label and use PCPs for their registered use only.
  • Only procure right quantities of pesticide with intact packaging (not leaking) and from licensed dealers.
  • Always store pesticides under lock and key, out of reach of children and other non-targets, foods and feeds.
  • Some pesticides are flammable and can ignite easily and should NOT therefore be stored near fire sources such as stoves, lamps or direct sunlight.
  • Always read the product labels carefully and entirely before use and stick to the label instructions accordingly.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear as indicated on the label when mixing and applying pesticides, such as rubber gloves, gumboots, overalls and respirators.
  • Keep non targets including children from areas where pesticides have been applied.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while mixing or spraying pesticides.
  • Triple rinse the containers and puncture them to render them un-usable, dispose as per the PCPB disposal guidelines. (Never use empty pesticide containers for any other purpose)
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling pesticides. Do the same for the protective gear.
  • Always observe pre-harvest intervals (PHI) for crops and re-entry intervals in the greenhouses.

Pesticides users should note that:

  • Under dosing may lead to pest/disease resistance to the product(s) and poor control of intended pests/diseases.
  • Over dosing may lead to high level(s) of pesticide residue in the produce and environment which may compromise on safety of food and human health in general.
  • Wrong timing of application may affect efficacy of the product(s) or food safety with respect to residues or non- targets such as bees that be actively foraging at the time of application.
  • Using pesticides for purpose not intended and for which they are not registered or using wrong application techniques/areas. This may not only affect performance of the product but may expose people and the environment to unacceptable levels of residue.