Statistically, agriculture is the backbone of Nigeria’s economy regardless of its oil wealth. In 2021, agriculture was responsible for 26 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employing over 30 percent of the active labour force. The growing population in Nigeria has resulted in an increase in production to satisfy rising demand for food. Increased production, therefore, results in the adoption of conventional agriculture that requires more usage of external chemicals like pesticides, artificial fertilizers and herbicides.
Consistent usage of these pesticides and artificial fertilizers has caused health complications as well as economic and environmental hazards. According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Nigeria is regarded as the largest importer of pesticides in Africa. In 2018, it spent $384 million and imported about 147,400 pesticides in 2020. Experts have affirmed that pesticides are a serious threat to public health and environment in Nigeria. It is also considered a global threat, causing over 385 million deaths across the globe, especially in Africa and other parts of the global south.
Lack of sensitization affects farmers’ application of pesticides.
Currently, there is no sufficient data recorded on the number of deaths caused by pesticides, but for the 270 Nigerians who died as a result of Endosulfan in Benue State, Nigeria in 2020. A survey carried out by the Alliance for Action on Pesticide in Nigeria (AAPN) in some Nigerian villages shows that over 90 percent of Nigerian farmers have no knowledge concerning the chemical they use of plants, neither do consumers know the chemical applied to their food. Majority of the farmers ignore the product labels in pesticide products because they lack the ability to read, and are resultantly oblivious of the hazards associated with the use of pesticides.
The lack of sensitization of farmers concerning appropriate use of pesticides was attributed to the lack of laws governing the sector and weak regulations. Therefore, a press conference was held in Abuja for the purpose of reviewing the NAFDAC Pesticide Registration Regulation 2021, amidst highlighting the vulnerabilities and threats in the proposed bill to Establish a Pesticide Council 2021 passed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), and amending the Fertilizer Act of 2019.
Cancer can also be caused by pesticides’ active ingredients.
Speaking at the conference, AAPN Lead Coordinator, Mr. Donald Ikenna, stated that alongside sensitization of farmers, there is the need to ensure that relevant government regulatory agencies like NAFDAC, the Farm Input Support Services (FISS), NESREA, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) diligently execute their mandate. NAFDAC has admitted that more than 40 percent of pesticide products registered in Nigeria have been banned in Europe as a result of their impacts on peoples health and the environment.
2022 survey of AAPN and the Smallholder Women Farmers Organization of Nigeria (SWOFON) has further shown that out of 13 most common pesticide products, 7 have active ingredients that are capable of causing cancer. These active ingredients include Paraquat and Butachlor. Besides from health costs, they have also caused economic losses due to food export rejections for presence of banned pesticides in them. The Programme Officer of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Mrs. Joyce Brown, said that usage and exposure to Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHP) in Nigeria lacks monitoring in their application.
Phased out pesticides should be prohibited from registration in Nigeria.
Barrister Oreoluwa, who is with AAPN, stated that Section 2 (1) of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) regulation policy frowns against the use or importation of pesticides that are not registered in the country. However, the section failed to realize that banned pesticides that are not longer in use in other countries may be registered in the country. Therefore, she advised that there is an introduction of a new subsection that prohibits registration of banned or phased out pesticides.