Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines pesticides as; any substance intended for preventing, destroying, or controlling any pest, including vectors of human or animal disease, unwanted species of plants or animals, causing harm during or otherwise interfering with the production, processing, storage, transport, or marketing of food, agricultural commodities, wood and wood products or animal feedstuffs, or substances administered to animals for the control of insects, arachnids, or other pests in or on their bodies.
Most of the time pesticides are classified based on their function. For example, insecticides that protect animals from illness that can be caused by parasites such as fleas and pesticides prevent sickness in human being that caused by moldy food or diseased produce. Herbicides are used to clear roadside weeds, trees and brush and are applied in ponds and lakes to control algae and plants such as water grasses. Rodenticides are used in grocery stores and food storage facilities to manage rodents and insects that infest food such as grain, while fungicides are used to protect animals and plants from illness that can be caused by fungi.
Pesticides have several benefits in controlling pests and plant disease vectors there by improving the yields and quality of crops and livestock. They also controls human and livestock disease vectors and nuisance organisms and save human and livestock lives.
Nonetheless pesticides have negative effects as well. They cause a variety of adverse health effects ranging from simple irritation of the skin and eyes to more severe effects on the nervous system, and the reproductive system .they can also cause cancer. The use of pesticides also raises a number of environmental concerns. It is one of the causes of water pollution, and persistent organic pollutants contribute to soil contamination.
The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) issued a pesticides legal notice in 2006, “ to determine the importation, handling, use, storage and disposal of pesticides.” There is also a national list of 80 kinds of pesticides that are allowed to be imported so the national pesticide list helps the government to achieve its legal notice. In addition, a new pesticide legislation has been a drafted in English and its translation into Tigrinya and Arabic, is underway.
Mr. Kaleab Haile, Head of Agrochemical Regulatory Unit of the Regulatory Services Department, said that as a continuation of the national prevention workshop in May 2007, some work has been done to improve pesticide management and reduce reliance on synthetic chemical pesticides. A review of pest management in the country’s citrus groves has identified infestations of woolly white, citrus leaf miner and cottony cushion scale that have all been exacerbated by the indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides.
Mr. Kaleab further said that new strategies based on integrated pest management have been developed and are in the process of being introduced by the National Agricultural Research Institute There is a plan to fight pests by introducing their natural enemies and ban the use of non-specific pyrethroid and organophosphorus based pesticides. A new legislation on pesticide has been drafted and a communication strategy has been developed to improve knowledge about the dangers of pesticide use within farming communities and the general public.
A project aimed at the prevention and disposal of persistent organic pesticides (POPS) and obsolete pesticide was launched on January, 2015. The project is run by a Steering committee made up of the Regulatory Service Department (RSD) from MoA, a Technical Advisor from FAO, the national Project Coordinator (NPC) of MoA-RSD, FAO Eritrea, Disposal Task Team headed by MOLWE, pesticide task team headed by MoA, IPM task Team headed by MoA and information and communication task team headed by MoA.
Mr. Kaleab said that the main objective of the project is safeguarding and disposal of POPs and obsolete pesticide stocks, prevention of the build-up of POPs and obsolete pesticide stocks as well as developing workable strategy to that effect, which includes introducing effective pesticide management, developing integrated pest management (IPM), putting in place effective regulatory framework and raising awareness through effective information and communication strategy.
So far the MoA has disposed of 363 tons of obsolete pesticides. The strategies for the remediation of contaminated soils have also been developed and demonstrated. The MoLWE, especially Department of Environment (DOE) in collaboration with Northern Red sea zone identified a land fill site in Lahzien (Foro area). In collaboration with FAO, the MoA is looking for a suitable international consultant to prepare a design for the disposed of contaminated soil in Massawa. In addition, the national safeguarding team cut, cleaned and crushed around 792 highly contaminated metal drums.
Mr. Kaleab said that knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP) survey has been conducted to help develop information and communication strategy on pesticide management and use so that various awareness raising materials, including brochures, leaflets, videos and dramas can be produced.
The Agrochemical Regulatory Unit of the Regulatory Service Department team has been organizing training programs that help implement the project. Training of trainers on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) training was given to 22 MoA extension workers for 3 months, at Kudifelasi village. The training focused on the control of tuta absoluta on tomato, where 20 farmers were selected in the Farmers Field School (FFs) program. The FFs program is planned to be replicated in five Zobas (Debub, Maekel, Anseba, Gash Barka and Northern Red Sea). In addition, around 60 technical staff from MoA and other stakeholders were trained on pesticide life-cycle management. There has been also been training in pesticide risk management. Two experts, one from MoA and another from MoLWE, have earned pest graduate diploma in pesticide risk Management in South Africa. Besides, pesticide stock management and store management courses were given to 80 staff members from MoA headquarter, MoA Zobas, MoLWE and other stakeholders.
Mr. Kaleab said that the government along with MoA is still making efforts to enhance proper use of pesticides and calls on farming communities and public at large to primarily rely on natural and harmless prevention methods and use chemicals only as a final resort.