17 February 2014. FAO has released the results of three studies undertaken as part of the ‘Reducing Dependence on Persistent Organic Pollutants and other Agro-Chemicals in the Senegal and Niger River Basins through Integrated Production, Pest and Pollution Management’ project. They reveal the extent to which pesticide use in West Africa poses risks to human health and environment.
- A first study was conducted in two areas – the Bla region of southern Mali, where FAO established a field school program in 2003, and a second area, Bougouni, where the program was not yet active. Training farmers in alternative methods of pest control is three times more effective than purchasing and using synthetic pesticides, according to FAO. Further, the FAO studies found that, while only 34% of cotton farmers in the Bla area of Mali participated in the training, pesticide use in the area dropped by 92% and resulted in no negative impact on crop yields.
- A second study, published by the Royal Society – authored by Oregon State University (OSU) scientists together with researchers in West Africa and at various institutions, including FAO, conducted in 19 different communities in five West African countries, used state-of-the-art risk assessment models to provide the first detailed analysis of pesticide risks for this region. The results highlight a number of specific pesticides that pose widespread and significant threats to human health and terrestrial and aquatic wildlife throughout the region.
- The third study reports on the first use in the region of passive sampling devices (PSDs), developed by Oregon State University, which are technologically simple tools that sequester and concentrate a wide variety of pesticides and other chemicals found in the environment. The tool is a major advancement for monitoring pollution in remote areas of less developed regions.
FAO undertakes its work on pesticide management in West Africa through close working partnerships with governments in the region as well as organizations such as the CERES Locustox Laboratory and ENDA-Pronat group in Senegal and Oregon State University’s Integrated Plant Protection Center.
Financing for the FAO programme been provided by the European Union, the Government of the Netherlands, and a GEF/UNEP grant.
04/03/2014 Organic fertiliser maker aims to make a difference in Kenya
Kenyan entrepreneur Marion Moon hopes to replenish depleted soils using her organic fertilisers. In 2012, a year after quitting her job, she started Wanda Organic to produce organic fertilisers using animal and plant waste.
Wanda Organic’s fertiliser brand called Plantmate is targeted at smallholder commercial farmers. The for-profit social enterprise has outsourced its production to a Philippines-based company and plans to open a local factory by 2015.
A 50kg bag of Plantmate currently sells for US$35. Moon’s aim is to reduce the price to half when local production begins and sales volumes rise. Her goal is to sell 300,000 bags in Kenya by the end of 2015 and capture 40% of the market in five years.
Moon explains that Plantmate is made by combining organic waste with an activator that has over 20 naturally occurring soil microbes and putting that mix through a rapid decomposition process. The finished product holds more than 20 microbes including bacteria, nitrifiers and fungi, which are beneficial to soil and plant.
“The idea is to have many factories across the country to be closer to the farmers. We are also considering a franchise model so we can teach farmers’ groups how to build their own factory, then we just sell them the microbes.”
Setting up a basic fertiliser plant would cost about KSh. 1m ($11, 500) and can be a manual or mechanised operation depending on the size. This biotechnology, Moon says, is popular in Southeast Asia and is gaining traction in Australia and Canada.