Trax Ghana is raising the alarm about the great health risk at which Ghanaian farmers and consumers put themselves through the unsafe use of pesticides in agriculture. Trax encourages its farmers to refrain from the use of pesticides and to use organic pest management techniques instead. It calls on the entire farming community in Ghana to do the same.
It is estimated that 87% of the farmers in Ghana use agrochemicals to grow fruits and vegetables. Many research findings have shown that all kinds of prohibited chemical fertilizers are still being used in Ghana. Examples are Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) like DDT, Aldrin, Dieldrin, lindane and endosulfan, which are banned globally under the Stockholm Convention. Exposure to these chemicals have been associated with birth defects, cancer, diabetes, reproductive problems and neurological diseases, among others.
Unsafe application of pesticides may pose severe health problems to farmers as well. Examples are skin irritations, headaches, general body weaknesses, respiratory problems and sexual weakness. Pesticide poisoning resulting in death has also been recorded in Ghana in recent years.
Apart from the impacts on human health, misuse of chemical pesticide also adversely affects water systems, insect populations and biodiversity in general.
Any exposure to such chemicals can be harmful to human health, but what causes Trax’s deep concern is its misuse. 74% of the farmers who buy agrochemicals are illiterate (read a report on this here) and thus unable to read the instructions that come with the pesticides. In some cases, farmers therefore spray too close to harvest time, use dosages that are beyond limits, use pesticides meant for growing crops on stored crops, apply expired pesticides, etc. The most alarming aspect of this is that the large majority of consumers has no idea about the toxic substances they are taking in on a daily basis.
Trax Ghana has embarked on a mission to promote the use of organic pesticide. Between 2007 and 2012 it has educated over 2,200 farmers on the production of an organic alternative to chemical pesticides, using the leaves of the neem tree. Trax also urged its farmers to abstain from the use of chemical pesticides and encourages them to practice intercropping and crop rotation to prevent severe pests outbreaks.
*Read this report by Northern Presbyterian Agricultural Services, funded by ICCO and Christian Aid, for more information on the misuse of Agrochemicals.