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Obsolete Pesticide Stockpiles: An Unwanted Legacy of the African Landscape
- 50,000 tons of obsolete pesticides litter the
- Obsolete stockpiles cause cancer, allergies,
reproductive disorders, damage to the nervous system and disruption to the
- The Africa Stockpiles Programme removed 3,310
tons of obsolete pesticide stockpiles and contaminated soil from 897 sites
August 5, 2013 - Many
developing countries import pesticides to increase agricultural production and
control vector-borne diseases such as malaria. Over time, unused pesticides
become obsolete and unsafe for use. Today, across Sub-Saharan Africa, more than
50,000 tons of obsolete pesticides litter the landscape. Exposure to these
pollutants can cause cancer, allergies, reproductive disorders, and damages to
the nervous and immune systems.
In 2005, the
Global Environment Facility (GEF) committed US$25 million to clean up stocks in Ethiopia,Mali, Tanzania, Tunisia, and South
Africa. As of today, 3,310 tons have been removed from 897 sites under the
Africa Stockpiles Programme (ASP).
poisoning of a population
stockpiles of obsolete pesticides are a severe problem in urban areas,â€ť says
Asferachew Abate, World Bank ASP project leader for Ethiopia. â€śOne of the
storage facilities is next to the Tesfa Secondary School in Addis Ababa,
causing disastrous effects on teachers and young students.â€ť
students at the school, clouds of noxious chemicals were released into the air
when rain fell on uncovered piles of pesticides. The dilapidated warehouse
containing the chemicals was made of tin and the roof leaked, exposing noxious
chemicals. Inside, tattered bags of malathion were piled to the ceiling,
spilling onto the floor, and leaking into the soil.
reported difficulty breathing, sickness and various illnesses leading to high
absenteeism and the smell of the harmful chemicals was so strong that friends
and family refused to visit the neighborhood, fearing falling ill themselves.
things are wonderful. The smell is gone and we are able to pursue our studies
without missing classes,â€ť says Mekdese Hailu, 8th grade student at Tesfa Secondary
With ASP, this
warehouse and many others like it were cleared. In total, 450 tons were removed
from Ethiopia under ASP. But in the last 15 years, 2,500 tons of obsolete
pesticides and 1,000 tons of contaminated soil from over 1,100 sites have been
eliminated as part of a multi-donor effort.
pesticides stockpiled in developing countries pose a serious threat to the
environment and public health. Many of them, such as DDT, are Persistent
Organic Pollutants (POPs) that remain in the fatty tissue of living organisms
and cause many health issues. Following the adoption of the Stockholm
Convention on POPs in 2001, some of these pesticides were either banned or
their use was restricted. Most of the accumulated stock was originally brought
in to combat locust invasions in the region. Poor storage and stock management,
ineffective products, uncoordinated donations or purchases and aggressive sales
promotions by some suppliers have all contributed to the problem.
Clean up of
stocks has been a long journey
For the last
15 years, multiple donors have funded projects to slowly and methodically
remove these poisonous chemicals from countries in Africa. In Ethiopia, the ASP
program contributed to this effort by removing additional stocks of pesticides
and by working with the government to institute preventative measures so that
pesticides do not accumulate in the future. There is now a directive in the
national policy to estimate annual pesticide requirements nationally. In
addition, the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture is currently finishing the
construction of a state-of-the-art laboratory equipped to conduct important
tests on pesticides to assess their efficacy, and the effect of pesticide
residues on food, soil and water.
population on maladies associated with pesticides is a key component of ASP.
The program funded a multi-media public awareness campaign to mitigate possible
health risks and to educate the population to buy and use pesticides
Hope for the
Stockpiles Program is an example of a transformational project that is
delivering benefits regionally,â€ť said Magda Lovei, World Bank sector manager
for environment, natural resources, water and disaster risk management. â€śThe
lessons learned will be carried over to other countries like Mali and Cote
dâ€™Ivoire that are emerging from post-conflict situations and remain key
priorities in the African regional portfolio.â€ť
elimination of these dangerous stocks is a development priority. Rural
communities cannot hope to advance if the soil and water upon which their
livelihoods and health depends are contaminated with pesticides, and urban
populations cannot prosper if they are suffering from severe illnesses caused
by pesticide poisoning.
Bank, in partnership with the GEF and other donors continue to work together to
create a cleaner safer environment for all Africans.
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