August 18, 2003—The Africa Stockpiles Programme (ASP) announced last week that it has received a commitment of up to $30 million from CropLife International, a plant science industry trade association, for the program’s clean-up of an estimated 50,000 tons of obsolete pesticides and contaminated soil, which have piled up throughout Africa.
The ASP is an unprecedented partnership between international organizations, non-governmental organizations, governments, industry, and multilateral funds to eliminate a serious and growing public health and environmental danger confronting nearly every country in Africa: the accumulation of obsolete pesticides. Many of these chemicals and their containers are in poor condition, threatening global, local, and regional environments and human health through contamination of soil, water, air, and food.
Most of the affected countries have tropical climates where agricultural and vector pests flourish both in diversity and numbers. Migratory pests such as locusts, grasshoppers, grain eating birds and rodents inflict untold damage to agriculture and bring about hunger or misery when they are at their peak. Anxious to minimize pest damages and frequently lacking information on the health hazards posed by pesticides, many developing countries receive the products in an uncoordinated influx of donations and trading, subsequently giving rise to excessive supply and difficulties in monitoring the quality of the pesticides.
The overflow of pesticides on the market, lead to the products being aggressively marketed within countries, omitting to include warning labels, and being kept in unsafe storage spaces, thereby threatening human life. Pesticide cans can be found littering the streets or being discharged in municipality dumps for subsequent open burning, leading to serious emissions of dioxins.
According to Ian Johnson, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development, "We cannot ignore the benefits that appropriate pesticide use has had on agriculture, economic development, and public nutrition, however, we must also acknowledge that misused and obsolete pesticides now pose a clear and present danger to the health and nutrition of the Africa population. The World Bank is dedicated to the clean-up across the continent, and very much appreciates CropLife International’s commitment."
The objective of the Africa Stockpiles Programme is to clear all obsolete pesticide stocks from Africa in an environmentally sound manner and to put in place measures to prevent their recurrence. It is expected to take up to 12 to15 years to complete, with the first phase, running between 2003 and 2006, to involve about 15 countries.
"The challenge presented to us all by the ASP will clearly require significant collaborative effort and cooperation,’ Dr. Christian Verschueren, Director General of CropLife International said. "We look forward to a continuing collaboration with the World Bank and the other ASP partners in the programme, with the hope that this initiative will establish a new model for public-private partnerships as a framework for multistakeholder relations in the future."
ASP Partners include: the African Development Bank, the African Union, the Basel Convention Secretariat, Canada, CropLife International, the European Union, the Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO), the French Republic, the Global Environment Facility, Japan, the Kingdom of Belgium, the Kingdom of Norway, the Kingdom of Sweden, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the Pesticides Action Network Africa, the Pesticide Action Network UK, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), The United Nations Institute for Training & Research (UNITAR), The World Bank, The World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Pesticides are mixed or dumped in rivers and canals. Sprayers are washed and cleaned in the same site where people get drinking water from.
(Photo: M. Davis).
Pesticide waste in rusted and corroded containers disappearing into the environment.