Farmers in Uganda are using dangerous pesticides, even though these chemicals are known to be harmful to people and the environment.
The Ministry of Agriculture updated its list of approved pesticides on July 24. Shockingly, it included substances like glyphosate (found in popular weed killers), cypermethrin (used in pesticides for crops like maize, coffee, and tomatoes), carbosulfan, and mancozeb (used in fungicides for tomatoes).
Glyphosate, classified as possibly cancer-causing by experts, is not allowed for household use in several European countries. However, it’s permitted in Uganda, imported and distributed by companies like Balton and Bukoola Chemical Industries.
Despite international concerns, some argue that the approval of glyphosate in the European Union is set to expire soon, and companies are already applying for renewal. Meanwhile, other harmful pesticides like cypermethrin and mancozeb, banned or not approved in the EU, are freely used in Uganda.
Environmentalists criticize this double standard in Uganda’s agrochemical trade. The UN rapporteur on toxins and human rights expressed concern, and a local organization sued the government for not banning glyphosate.
Farmers, especially smallholders, are drawn to these hazardous chemicals due to their affordability compared to safer options. However, this choice comes at a cost, as highlighted by a study revealing increased poisoning cases, especially among males and children.
While there is some guidance from retailers on using these chemicals, lapses in safety measures are common. Agrochemical dealers also face criticism for lack of regulation and knowledge about the products they sell.
Despite the availability of safer alternatives, demand for biopesticides is low. Agriculture officials suggest that a combination of organic and synthetic chemicals could reduce the overuse of harmful pesticides.
The misuse of agrochemicals, leading to increased pest resistance, is a growing concern. Industry insiders estimate Uganda’s agrochemical market at $120 million, creating a profit-driven motive to maintain the use of hazardous pesticides.
This reliance on harmful chemicals poses risks to farmers’ health, soil fertility, and the nation’s food security. Critics argue that international trade deals contribute to this dependency on agribusiness models, prioritizing profit over sustainable farming practices.