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Developement news | 25 Apr 2012
Vegetable farmers ignore health requirements on pesticide use

These vegetables must not contain pesticide residues if meant for human consumption

These products have made a significant difference in food production, but unfortunately their poor application has an impact on human and animal health.
Pesticides are useful to farmers because they prevent, destroy or control the pests that would obviously cause enormous harvest losses. This includes herbicides to inhibit the growth and reproduction of some harmful plants, insecticides to eliminate harmful insects and fungicides that inhibit the growth of mildews, yeasts, and molds.
From the above, one discovers that these products have become indispensable in the production of leafy vegetables like cabbages, lettuce, onions, huckleberry and tomato that are often susceptible to attacks pest attacks.

Of recent, a good number of consumers have complained of stomach disorders after consuming some vegetables they got from local markets.
When we sought to find out what was the problem, some pesticide and fertilizer dealers, some health expects and farmers linked the health disorders to the poor usage of some of these chemical substances on the food items.
Although we got no laboratory results linking health disorders to the pesticides and fertilizers, some farmers admitted that they have used pesticides and fertilizers without necessarily caring about when to harvest.

For example, a farmer in Buea admitted that because stem borers were dealing with his corn, he used a nematicide, popularly called mocab and wood ash to put on the corn to eliminate the borers. The same farmer admitted to us that he had used the same mixture on his huckleberry whose leaves were affected and they started unfolding. He says this worked very well.
To the farmer there are no health concerns though he admits that when he prepared some of the huckleberry his children complained of stomach ache.
The abuse of these chemicals ignorantly, is widespread as some tomato farmers use fungicides to prevent rotting even the day they are harvesting, thus selling very contaminated vegetables to the public.

These vegetables must not contain pesticide residues if meant for human consumption
“Sometimes when I buy tomatoes in the local market, I see greenish remains of pesticides on them, but I don’t know what to do since I must use tomato”, Mr Thomas Mokake, an agric expert on retirement after serving in the Ministry of Agriculture and the UN development agencies regretted to TFV in a chat recently.
He is not the only person to informally recognize the presence of dangerous chemical substances in food items; others have complained and like him believe most farmers need more education in these aspects as the retired agric expert regrets the farmers does this ignorantly.

“Farmers sometimes treat their crops and forget the damage they cause to human live by not respecting the manufacturers advice on usage”, Ngoh Denis, the President of the South West Network of Fertilizer Distributors and Inputs told TFV. He regrets that some of the farmers despite their advice refuse to respect the user advice which they give them when selling the chemicals.
Other distributors as well as farmers admit that it is ignorance on the part of the end users that is a problem.
The government of Cameroon publishes a list of chemicals that can be used to boost crop yields but getting this homologated list is usually a difficult task even at the level of senior officials of agriculture. Bangsi Daniel Song

“Some farmers abuse chemical fertilizers”, Ngoh Denis, President, South West Network of Input Distributors

Which crops do you cultivate ?
I am a vegetable farmer. I have been cultivating tomatoes, green beans, cabbages, huckleberry for close to 20 years.
What are the problems you face as a vegetable farmer in Buea ?
Things like fertilizer that we need are very costly in the market. The prices are scaring to most of us. Watering is also a problem. You know vegetables sell well in the dry season so if we have water pumps and fertilizers we can work more but it is difficult to have these inputs. Apart from the vegetables I work corn.

But the government has supported farmers; can’t you buy now after the first gifts ?
They know those they give to. Some of us have never received anything. Much of those things are given to people who can pay bribes to the civil servants who give in the name of the government. We only here government inputs on radio and we don’t know those who receive them.
Why don’t you use organic fertilizers ?
I combine organic fertilizers and chemical fertilizers. I buy fowl dunk for 1500 francs. So it’s easier to use just a bag of chemical fertilizer and respect the time to harvest than go for organic that is sometimes bulky and even costly. Some farmers abuse chemical fertilizers by spraying on vegetable and harvesting immediately. This is a cause of ill health to many farmers but some of them do this ignorantly. By BDS

“Some farmers ignorantly expose themselves and the public to chemical residues”,
Ngoh Denis, President, South West Network of Input Distributors
Pesticides are fast becoming a problem of public health here?
Short term crops like huckleberry, tomato and cabbages here some times contain pesticides. This is really a problem because of naivety. Farmers don’t care about when to use pesticides. Some farmers do not want to read the instructions on the chemicals. For example, some vegetable farmers mix ‘mocap’, a nematicide with wood ash and spray on the leaves of vegetables to kill the pests. This same farmer forgets that the nematicide has a residue that stays in the plant for over one month. So some farmers ignorantly expose themselves and the public to chemical residues. When these vegetables are harvested before the required time they become a health problem. This is why there are complaints in the South West that most crops planted with fertilizer are not good.

Fertilizer has nothing to do with the problem; fertilizer improves on the soil fertility. It adds the lacking components of the soil. Nematicides should be avoided in vegetable cropping even nitrogenous fertilizers like urea or ammonia. For the unfolding of leaves attacked by insects, there are mild insecticides like ‘cepical 12’ that have lesser residues. Applying insecticides to vegetables must be done in a way so that it can be harvested after some time. For example, tomato farmers should apply fertilizer and other mild chemicals just after harvesting. They can calculate that after two weeks they will harvest again. Farmers should do everything not to harvest vegetables with pesticide residues.

What causes this reliance on pesticides ?
There are a lot of insects that cause damages to crops but it is funny that farmers kill these insects and expose human beings who consume the crops. We need to sensitize the farmers on this because most farmers are ignorant.
Do you have a machine for preparing organic fertilizer ?
Yes, I will start producing organic fertilizer and it will be cheaper because the raw materials are droppings, waste from pawpaw, bananas, mangoes and other organic wastes. By BDS

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