Pesticide problem solved in Paraguay

In Paraguay a fire that took place in a site owned by the Oficina Fiscalizadora de Algodón y Tabaco  (OFAT) in the city of Asunción in 2003 resulted in about 160 tonnes of damaged pesticides, contaminated soil and other contaminated materials being placed in hastily procured shipping containers where they have remained since. The site is close to the centre of Asunción, the capital of Paraguay and next to the site is a neighbourhood, a busy road and a river, so that health and environmental risks are extremely high. The Government of Japan agreed to allow income generated from agricultural equipment and inputs donated by Japan and sold locally to be used for the disposal of the obsolete pesticides from OFAT Asunción. Under a Unilateral Trust Fund agreement from the Government of Paraguay to FAO, AGP formulated the contract specification for disposal of 200 tonnes of obsolete pesticides and contaminated materials from OFAT Asunción. The contract was issued in April 2010, but many difficulties were faced in importing materials to Paraguay, primarily because of a drought that reduced the level of the River Paraguay and prevented cargo ships from coming up-river from Argentina. Overland transport was significantly slower. Work started in early February 2011 with the training of local staff on how to work safely and effectively to repack obsolete pesticides in preparation for international shipment Because of the high temperatures and humidity, two teams of labourers from the Ministry of Agriculture and the local Fire Brigade were trained and worked in 30 minute shifts repacking pesticides. By early March all the obsolete pesticides in OFAT Asunción had been repacked into new containers ready for shipment to the UK for destruction.

A great deal of media interest was shown in the project with the involvement of FAO Rome and the FAO Sub-regional Office for Latin America. Video footage and a photographic record of the operation was organized. In addition local and international press attended a ministerial briefing as well as a press conference in the field. There was significant coverage of the project nationally and regionally.

An additional problem faced in Paraguay is an accumulation of nearly 6,000 tonnes of cotton seed treated with a variety of pesticides (fungicides and insecticides) that had not been planted and have since become obsolete. The Government requested assistance from FAO in developing a solution for disposal of the seeds. Expertise from the University of Wageningen was mobilized and a field mission organized in February to review the situation and propose a technical solution.

The proposal made was to use an accelerated composting process by mixing a proportion of seeds with other available organic matter, manure and soil from areas where treated seeds had previously been buried. The seeds would be broken by mechanical means, and the compost piles would be constructed and maintained to optimize the composting process. The University of Paraguay in Asunción, together with the Pesticides and Seed Authority of Paraguay (SENAVE) will work together to implement the composting operation. A pilot will be run in the coming months to test various options and optimize the process, which will then lead to full scale operations to treat the full 6,000 tonnes of seeds.


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