Pesticides: “A Nightmare for Ghanaian Citizens”

Food is needed for human existence. This holds true for Ghanaians who consume fruits, vegetables, grains and even value added agricultural products such as chocolate from cocoa bean to meet up their dietary requisites. The initial focus of food consumption was to satisfy the hungry taste, and therefore the emphasis was more on the “quantity” of consumed products.

Nowadays, people have become conscious of what they consume and, therefore, demand safe foods. In addition, the proven health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables to heart disease and cancer prevention have resulted in increased demand and consumption of these commodities. Moreover, the expansion of international trade requires year-round production of these produce and this leaves the food sector with great potentials, adding to the anticipated increase in future population.

Crops require certain environmental conditions to produce optimum yields. Undisturbed ecosystems or ecosystems with low agricultural inputs tend to have higher biodiversity and tend to yield better because of genetic diversity.

In an attempt to increase food production, reduce poverty and meet international export standards, human activities have led to a disturbance in ecosystems resulting to some organisms attaining pest status. These organisms cause significant quantity and quality damages to the intended produce retendering them unfit for consumption and international trade. Farmers retaliate by trying to control them and amidst the numerous options available, they prefer to use synthetic agro inputs since they are fast acting, provides short term control and easy to handle. Even with the advent of chemical control, Losses are still incurred and some agricultural produce still face international sanctions for the flowing reasons;

~ High frequency of treatments selects for resistance to most used compounds,
~ Repeated applications of the same products or chemical groups
~ Pesticide residues exceed the accepted levels on food products
~ Life stages of certain pests inhabit alternative areas or host plants and therefore, pesticide application during those periods will escape the target pests

Every Ghanaian consume these products/produce and therefore the risk to health and non – target organisms and locations is becoming a nightmare. Unfortunately, pesticide producing companies such as Syngenta, (Switzerland) continues to sell most toxic chemicals in lower income countries (Ghana inclusive), where standards are often weaker and less strictly enforced (Pesticide News, 2019), even though they are banned in the producing countries due to health issues. Substantial evidence on pesticide poisoning and how pesticide industry defend their harmful products was highlighted at the European civic forum in 2018 and is now available online (http://www.monsanto-tribunal.org/, accessed, 1st June 2019). It is not uncommon to get vegetables or green peppers at ‘Madina’ market that were sprayed 1 or 2 days before harvest.

The way forward
Considering the importance of food to Ghanaians and the foreign exchange earned from the export of agricultural products, the only available option is to source and scale – up alternatives to curb this indelible act.

Generally, the best approach to tackle pest problems is to combine several compatible tactics to bring their populations below damaging levels. This is referred to as “integrated pest management (IPM)” which is safe for humans, environmentally benign and cost effective in the long run. It equally reduce climate impacts by conserving soil organic carbon through organic manure (organic matter) addition.

Some thoughts
Agricultural policies are there to ensure an increase in food production. Government policies of providing inputs to farmers encourage farmers to depend solely on synthetic inputs which we are all aware of the implications. Better policies that encourages agroecology and organic cultivation will leave the land a better place for future generation.
In integrated pest management and judging from the concept of economic threshold, this concept tolerates some level of damage to the crop as long as this damage does not exceed the cost of the control. Hypothetically, if the monetary value of I ha cowpea is $20,000 for 10000kg and 1% is the threshold for pest control to be implemented. This directly implies that, 100kg will be lost before pest control is justified. This is food that can be used to feed a hungry population especially with the global food shortages and rising population, allowing certain concepts to be revisited.

Author:
Nkafu Therese
Email: Therese@syecomp.com