FAO Regional Office for Africa

FAO, Government join hands to phase out Highly Hazardous Pesticides in Zimbabwe

Study informs identification of HHPs under conditions of use in the country

An image from the survey showing poor storage and disposal of HHPs @FAO

MUTARE, 26 May 2022 – While pesticides are used in many countries mainly for agricultural and public health purposes, they may pose significant health and environmental risks. Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) are pesticides which are acknowledged to present particularly high levels of acute or chronic hazards to health or environment according to internationally accepted classification systems such as WHO or Global Harmonized System (GHS) or their listing in relevant binding international agreements or conventions. In addition, pesticides that appear to cause severe or irreversible harm to health or the environment under conditions of use in a country may be considered to be and treated as highly hazardous. HHPs are generally older molecules that are largely banned in industrialized countries but are unfortunately still readily available in many developing countries where the regulatory frameworks are inadequate.

Agricultural pest management and control in Zimbabwe heavily depends on pesticides, there are more than 483 active ingredients and 800 formulations of pesticides registered in the country. In Zimbabwe, HHPs constitute about 10 per cent of the registered pesticides. Additionally, there are huge quantities of obsolete pesticides which are past their shelf life or in unusable conditions dotted in various stores across the country. Zimbabwe is party to the Basel, Stockholm and Rotterdam (BSR) Conventions, therefore the country has an obligation to regulate and soundly manage the importation, use and disposal of pesticides and promote the use of safer alternatives as provided for in these Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs).

It is against this background that in 2018, the Government of Zimbabwe submitted a request to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for technical and financial assistance to strengthen national capacity for sound pest and pesticide management including risk reduction of HHPs. Through a Technical Cooperation Project (TCP), FAO supported implementation of the project entitled “Strengthening Pest and Pesticide Management in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.” In Zimbabwe, the Research Services Department (RSD) under the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development (MoLAFWRD) spearheaded the project. The objectives of the TCP were to identify, assess, and mitigate the impact of HHPs and to promote development and adoption of safer pest management alternatives in Zimbabwe. The European Union (EU) funded Global programme of the Capacity Building Related to Multilateral Environmental Agreements in African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries (ACP-MEAs3) succeeded the TCP and was launched in Zimbabwe in 2021.

“The ACP-MEAs3 project aims to mainstream biodiversity into agriculture and promote sound pesticides management. Through this project, the Government of Zimbabwe has committed to transform unsustainable agricultural practices to ecosystem-based agricultural production, which reduces the use and impact of pesticides on human and environmental health,” said Kudzai Kusena, FAO National Project Coordinator speaking on behalf of Patrice Talla, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa and FAO Representative to Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has followed the three steps of addressing HHPs as outlined in the FAO/WHO Guidelines for HHP management namely identification, assessment and mitigation. Between March and May 2022, through the ACP-MEAs 3 project, FAO commissioned the HHP Thematic Working Group to conduct a national survey as part of the needs and risk assessment step of addressing HHPs. From 23 – 29 May 2022, the two entities organized an HHPs survey findings write-shop in Mutare to carry out data capturing, cleaning, analysis and write a report on findings of the survey assessment on HHP use and pest management in Zimbabwe. The report will be used as a baseline to develop national action plans to phase out HHPs in the country. The HHP survey builds on the pilot study done in Mashonaland East province under the TCP and is in line with the national HHP risk reduction plan agreed upon through the consultative workshop conducted in 2018 with support from the Swedish Chemicals Agency (KemI)

“The Government of Zimbabwe will use the survey report and the updated HHP list to contribute to agriculture and food system transformation strategy which is anchored on sustainable production, food security and resilience,” said Nozipho Nziramasanga, Head of Fertilizer Farm Feeds and Remedies Institute (FFFRI) , the coordinator of the HHPs thematic working group.

The ACP-MEAs3 Project Technical Unit (PTU) will conduct a validation workshop to review and adopt the findings of the report. Based on the final report, the PTU will organize a series of national training of trainers workshops to capacitate extension officers on risk reduction of HHPs. A national HHPs media and advocacy campaign will complement efforts to influence policy and raise awareness on the impacts of HHPs to human and environmental health. Ultimately, the project will contribute to the formulation of a national HHP mitigation strategy which will be adopted at national level.

“With these findings, let us think outside the box taking the client’s perspectives at the centre in problem solving, particularly our farmers. Let us not take our position as we feel, but rather mirror the farmers’ view in revising pesticide management policies with the main objective to reflect and address issues that affect the farmer on the ground,” said Dr. Claid Mujaju, Director in the Department of Research Services as he concluded and recommended the way forward to comprehensively inform the mitigation and phasing out strategy of HHPs in Zimbabwe.