Pesticides and Poverty
€1.3 Million to Involve African Farmers and Poisoning Victims in International Agreements
London, 30 March 2005
The high cost of unregulated pesticide use on farmers’ health and the global environment has finally reached international attention. The Pesticide Action Network (PAN), an international alliance of over 600 civil society, environment, and farmers’ organisations worldwide, is launching a 1.3 million euro project to involve farmers and victims of pesticide poisoning in the implementation of crucial international agreements designed to reduce the hazards of pesticides on humans and the environment. Funded by the EU, the project will run for three years.
In 2004, two international conventions came into force, banning the production of, and controlling international trade in, the most deadly pesticides. Along with extensive existing legislation and codes of conduct on chemical management, wildlife and habitat protection, labour rights and health and safety, tools now exist to stop the deaths and pollution caused by pesticides, particularly in developing countries.
“It’s essential that African farmers know about these tools, to protect themselves and raise their working and living conditions to those enjoyed by farmers in developed countries” says Barbara Dinham, Director of PAN UK. The number and range of international agreements can be confusing, even for experts, so PAN are collaborating with law firm EcoSphere in Brussels to create a user-friendly, succinct guide to the different conventions. National versions of this guide and community training events will raise awareness and should lead to safer handling of pesticides.”
“But it’s a mutual relationship” says Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of partner organisation PAN Asia Pacific. “The conventions need the farmers too, to collect specific information needed, and to monitor violations of the codes”. To take one example, the Rotterdam Convention lists particularly toxic pesticides that cause unacceptable health and environmental damage, an early warning to other governments considering whether or not to register that pesticide in their country. In order to get a chemical listed, a government needs to provide evidence of the damage caused in their country. The WHO estimates that 3 million people are victims of pesticide poisoning every year – and that 200,000 of them die. But, adds Saro, “too often developing countries don’t have the resources to monitor these poisonings, so can’t prove that the pesticides cause them”.
PAN Asia Pacific trains farming communities and plantation workers to monitor the health impacts of pesticide spraying themselves, and will draw on that experience to train African farmers to do the same. At the same time, PAN Africa will create collaboration between government authorities and community organisations. This will ensure that the results of community health monitoring can be used at an international level to support strong action by governments and regulators in controlling dangerous pesticides.
“These conventions are intended to help the poor farmers who suffer the most from pesticide ‘collateral damage’” says Abou Thiam, Director of PAN Africa. “Yet they often don’t know not about international activities, and are not engaged by them. This project is a fantastic opportunity for farmers and international regulators to join forces over a problem that causes them both headaches”. Yahya Msangi of the Tanzanian Plantation and Workers Union adds “I can see the benefit that this project can offer to our organisations, our network and the country as a whole”, while Silvani Mng’anya from AGENDA (Tanzania) adds “Since the project involves a cross section of policy makers, regulators, researchers, civil society and farmers’ organizations it will provide a fair ground for harmonised solutions towards common health and environmental hazards of pesticide use”.
Notes for Editors.
1. The Stockholm Convention for Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS) entered into force on 17 May 2004. The Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent (PIC) entered into force on 24 February 2004.
2. The Consolidated Guideline and Checklist for Implementation will cover at least: Rotterdam, Stockholm, Basle, Bamako Conventions, ILO Convention 184 (Chemical Convention), Montreal Protocol, Biosafety Protocol, FAO and WHO codes, relationship to IFCS-initiated activities and other appropriate processes.
3. Full project activities will be carried out in Senegal and Tanzania, including building links between non-governmental organisations and government authorities responsible for implementing chemical conventions, who may all be included in training on monitoring environmental impacts of pesticides.
4. NGOs in Ethiopia, Benin and Cameroon will also be able to participate in project activities including training and integrated pest management and organic demonstration projects with agricultural advisory services.
5. The project also funds 6 research projects describing case studies that demonstrate the urgency of using existing legal tools to reduce the risks of pesticides.
Eloise Touni, PAN UK, firstname.lastname@example.org, 020 7065 0919, 07790 012810