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[ABUJA] African rice smallholders are increasingly using low-quality, unregistered herbicides because of inadequate capacity of governments to enforce strict monitoring of national pesticides regulations, a study says.

According to researchers who conducted the study, although herbicides can help reduce rice production losses, incorrect use can negatively impact human health, the environment and counteract efforts to increase food security.

Another study reveals that use of fake agricultural inputs is a global challenge in both the developing and developed countries. The situation in Africa is serious with fake agro-inputs accounting for 15-20 per cent of the agro-inputs. Hot spots for fake agro-inputs are Egypt, Uganda, Tanzania and most of West African countries.

“Most of the really cheap herbicides are the ones that are counterfeit or at least not registered.”

Jonne Rodenburg, University of Greenwich

“Most of the really cheap herbicides are the ones that are counterfeit or at least not registered,” says Jonne Rodenburg, lead author of the study published in the journal Food Security last month (23 January).

“Some of them might indeed be what is promised on the bottle label but there is just no guarantee of that.”

Rodenburg, a senior researcher at the Natural Resources Institute of UK-based University of Greenwich, adds that African governments lack the capacity to keep track of all the new products that are imported from herbicide-producing countries such as China and France.

The study involved farm surveys among 1,965 farmers across 20 African countries including Chad, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Senegal  and Uganda conducted from 2012 to 2014 and market surveys  in 17 African countries from 2014 to 2015.

“Of the available herbicide brands on the market, 62 per cent appeared not to be authorised by a recognised pesticide regulatory organisation,” according to the findings.

The researchers add that “in Uganda farmers mostly relied on the product label and farmers in Burkina Faso and Nigeria more often consulted their neighbours.”

Suleiman Musa, an agricultural extension worker with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in Nigeria, tells SciDev.Net that the study’s findings are not surprising. “The adulteration of chemicals is not a new development. The choice of what to buy purely lies with farmers,” he explains. “Extension workers only advise farmers but there is the need for governments to put in place stringent laws and regulations that will ensure that any chemicals imported into African countries meet the right standards.”

Ocholi Adams, a senior lecturer at the Department of Agricultural Economics, the University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Nigeria, tells SciDev.Net that over-dependence of African farmers on self-prescribed herbicides is a major contributor to low crop yields on the continent. 

“Less than ten per cent of farmers Sub-Saharan Africa seek advice from experts on what chemical is necessary,” he says,  adding that the 90 per cent rely on information from fellow farmers and illiterate chemical merchants.
 
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.

References

Jonne Rodenburg and others Status quo of chemical weed control in rice in sub-Saharan Africa (Food Security, 23 January 2019)