Building capacity related to Multilateral Environmental Agreements in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP MEAs 3)

FAO supports Zimbabwe to stop the loss of agricultural biodiversity through sound management of pesticides

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) made significant progress in enhancing environmental sustainability in Zimbabwe.

Over the last three years, under the ACP-MEAS 3 project, a European Union-funded initiative that seeks to strengthen environmental governance and implement Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), Zimbabwe has made significant progress in policy development, sustainable agriculture research and development, mitigation of the impact of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs), and promotion of ecosystems-based agricultural practices through farmer field schools.

“Zimbabwe is setting an excellent example for other countries in Southern Africa by implementing Multilateral Environmental Agreements and policies for sustainable agricultural practices. Zimbabwe's efforts are commendable and should serve as a model for others,” said Kudzai Kusena, the International Biodiversity Expert and ACP-MEAs 3 project coordinator in Zimbabwe, during a project workshop that was held from 24-25 January in Mutare.

Zimbabwe has reached a significant milestone in drafting key policy documents like the agrobiodiversity policy frameworks, animal genetic resources strategy and action plan. The national biodiversity strategy and action plans have also been reviewed and updated.

“In addition, FAO has provided technical support to the reviewing of the Zimbabwe Agricultural Investment Policy and the establishment of the Provincial Agricultural Investment Policies (PAIPs) by mainstreaming agrobiodiversity and sound management of pesticides,” said Kudzai Kusena.

Onismus Chipfunde, the Head of the Genetic Resources and Biotechnology Institute, added that the final draft policy documents are ready for review. “Once approved, these policies will be crucial in guiding Zimbabwe towards sustainable and ecosystem-based agricultural practices while promoting the sound management of pesticides. Our goal is to have these policies approved and launched this year."

Numerous activities to promote the adoption of ecosystem-based agricultural practices, the effects of indiscriminate pesticide use on pollinators, the impacts of highly hazardous pesticides on livestock and the link with antimicrobial resistance have been carried under the ACP-MEAS 3 project.

“The project has conducted six in-depth studies on various themes, providing vital evidence to support the policy development process. These studies cover a wide range of topics including the link between antimicrobial resistance, barriers and enablers for adopting bio-pesticides, bio-fertilizers and bio-agents and assessing the state of organic agriculture in Zimbabwe. We have also studied the extent to which sustainable agricultural practices are covered in university and agricultural college curriculums,” said Professor Arnold Bray Mashingaidze, the lead researcher at Jimat Consultancy Services.

The project has conducted a thorough investigation and identified 44 Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) that are currently registered and in use in Zimbabwe. The study also analysed the impact of these pesticides on farmers' health and the suicide rate among them. As a result, a draft HHP mitigation strategy has been developed and is ready for validation.

To promote the adoption of ecosystem-based agricultural practices nine farmer field schools were established in Makoni, Mt Darwin, and Gokwe South districts. These schools have been instrumental in integrating sustainable agricultural practices such as water conservation, biopesticides to fight fall armyworms, and introducing better-quality pastures.

“The concept of farmer field schools has brought significant mindsets among farmers as they realise the benefits of ecosystem-based agricultural practices,” said Obert Maminimini, the ACP MEAs 3 National Project Coordinator of FAO.

“For the 2023/2024 agricultural season farmers have managed to establish early crops, which are already at reproductive stage despite the poor rainfall season due to El Nino, by applying in-field water harvesting and moisture conservation techniques promoted through farmer field schools,” added Obert Maminimini.

 A Call to Action

Stakeholders agreed that the ACP-MEAs 3 project activities had contributed a lot in raising awareness about the need to review the legislation on pesticide registration and regulation in the country. They called for the government to provide a viable alternative to reduce the use and impact of HHPs.

“Promoting bio-pesticides is a critical step towards achieving this goal, and the support of all stakeholders, including the private sector, is necessary,” said Mr Kenneth Chipere, the principal research officer of Fertilizers, Farm Feeds and Remedies Institute.

The meeting also agreed on the importance of securing government approval and launching all final draft policies produced under the project.

There was also a call to develop communication products that can help disseminate the project’s output from Policy Development, Research and Development, Highly Hazardous Pesticides, and Farmer Field Schools to farmers, policymakers, academia, the private sector and all other relevant stakeholders.

"We must join hands to transform our agri-food systems into sustainable agricultural practices," said Professor Arnold Bray Mashingaidze emphasizing the importance of working together with the government and all stakeholders as Zimbabwe puts wheels to stop the loss of agricultural biodiversity and sound management of pesticides.