Mozambique has taken important regulatory measures to protect its people and the environment by cancelling the registration of 79 Highly Hazardous Pesticides. Working with the National Directorate of the Agrarian Services, in the Ministry of Agriculture, FAO helped bring the prohibition about and promote an ecosystem-based approach to pest and pesticide management.
Over the past ten years, the average annual volume of pesticide imports into Mozambique has increased by 500 percent. Agricultural pesticides are used mainly on cash crops like cashew, tobacco, sugar cane, cotton, banana and vegetables. The annual value of pesticide sales is about US$16.6 million. However, some of the products currently in use are highly hazardous.
Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) are products that present particularly high levels of acute or chronic hazards to human health or the environment due to their inherent chemical properties and that are listed in internationally accepted classification systems or relevant binding international conventions. In addition, pesticides that appear to cause severe or irreversible harm to human health or the environment under the prevailing conditions of use in a country may be considered as highly hazardous.
Most of these products are no longer permitted in developed countries where new, lower risk pesticides, including biopesticides, have become available to producers. Smallholder farmers are generally not in the position to adequately manage risks when handling highly hazardous products and to prevent personal contamination and environmental pollution. As a result, their uncontrolled use may lead to occupational poisoning.
The Government of Mozambique has issued a declaration to cancel registration of many pesticides that might pose severe risks to human health and the environment under current conditions of use. With this declaration, the Government indicates its intension to refuse future registration of similar pesticides.
FAO’s role in phasing out Highly Hazardous Pesticides
In 2006, FAO members countries requested help to facilitate risk reduction of pesticides, including the pro-active banning of such products and the promotion of alternative solutions.
Since then, a joint FAO and World Health Organization (WHO) expert panel has drawn up a list of criteria to help identify Highly Hazardous Pesticides and FAO has assisted several countries in addressing the risks posed by these compounds.
Often, the only effective risk reduction measure is to prohibit a product by cancelling its registration, or by restricting its availability to certain groups of specialised users who have been trained, and are able, to manage the risks.
The Mozambique case
In Mozambique, the work started in 2012, under the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture and in coordination with the Ministry for the Coordination of Environmental Affairs and the Ministry of Health. A team of experts scrutinized the list of permitted pesticides and pesticide import data and short-listed 79 formulated products containing a total of 30 active ingredients. Many of these (17 active ingredients) had not been imported for several years because they are no longer used and thus could be cancelled immediately.
A field survey conducted in provinces with high pesticide use confirmed that some of the short-listed products currently in use were handled and applied without an adequate level of personal protection or a good understanding of the risks involved.
These products were cancelled after stakeholder consultations with representatives of commodity companies, the agro-chemical industry, civil society and producers who assessed the implications of phasing them out and identified viable alternative solutions. Nine active ingredients were cancelled once less risky alternatives were registered to be used in Mozambique and made available. The remaining 4 active ingredients are expected to be cancelled by the end of the 2014.
FAO continues to work alongside the Ministry of Agriculture to help strengthen the capacity of producers to make better use of ecological approaches to manage crops and pests by conserving important ecosystem services such as natural biological control, as one example.