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12.07.2006 Disaster

Farmers Use Toxic Chemicals

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A number of chemicals banned in most developed countries are still being used by farmers in some communities in Ghana.

The chemicals which are said to be having devastating effects on human life and the environment, were banned under the Stockholm Convention in 1985. They include DDT, dieldrin, eldrin and lindane.

Emmanuel Odjam-Akumatey, Executive Director of Ecological Restorations, a non-governmental organization, disclosed in Accra on Monday at a news conference on the subject “Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).”

He said the use of agro-chemicals in the country has reached an alarming rate and this was causing reproductive dysfunction, suppression of the immune system and developmental abnormalities in both humans and animals.

“Because of illiteracy, the chemicals are wrongly applied and this is having devastating effects on the environment and the health of humans,” he stated, and added that the implication of releasing residual agro-chemicals to the surface and ground water is a threat to human life.

Mr Odjam-Akumatey noted that while countries from which Ghana imports the chemicals are moving away from their usage, Ghana continues to encourage their use.

He therefore called for the promotion and the use of natural pesticides (organic manure) which he described as “healthy to the soil” rather than the use of inorganic chemicals and appealed to the media to educate farmers on the dangers of persistent organic pollutants.

Farmers are currently being taught the preparation of compost or organic manure, production of organic pesticides from tree leaves and how and when to apply them to crops, he noted.

He said that Ecological Restorations is working with the various stakeholders to develop a national policy on the limit of persistent organic pollutants in the country.

A programme officer of the Environmental Protection Agency, Charles Koomson, noted that vegetable farmers in their desperate attempt to protect their crops and investments from the unbearable activities of insects, resort to the use of different types of pesticides and in various concoctions.

“For instance, chemicals meant to be applied on cocoa, such as lindane, which is persistent, highly toxic and bioccumulating, are used on vegetables such as tomatoes,” he said, adding that such mixtures improvised by farmers have been on rampant use leaving residues that are higher than limits set by the WHO and FAO.

He wondered why some of the listed pollutants and pesticides banned under the Stockholm Convention since 1985 still find their way into the country.

Mr. Koomson said that the EPA is playing a major role in the promotion of safe management of chemicals in the country noting that a pesticides registration and licensing scheme had been put in place in accordance with the Pesticides Control and Management Act 1996.

He said the EPA is strengthening institutional capacity in terms of legal framework, intensive awareness raising and education, reduction of POPs releases through the identification of alternative non-POPs pesticides and promotion of integrated pest management.

He said ultimate elimination of pollutants in the country would depend on active participation of relevant national stakeholders including government, NGOs, departments and agencies, research institutions, the media and community based organizations.

He lauded the Ecological Restorations for creating awareness on the effects of the pollutants and the promotion of integrated pest management in vegetable cultivation in its bid to protect human health and the environment.

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