CropLife Pledges $30M to Rid Africa of Obsolete Pesticides

WASHINGTON, DC, August 13, 2003 (ENS) - Cleanup of some 50,000 metric tons of obsolete pesticides and contaminated soil, now stockpiled throughout Africa, will take place more rapidly than expected due to a commitment of up to $30 million from the plant science industry trade association CropLife International. Many of these chemicals and their containers are in poor condition, threatening the environment and human health through contamination of soil, water, air, and food.

The Africa Stockpiles Programme announced Thursday that it has gratefully accepted the pledge, which CropLife International says represents a doubling of the anticipated contribution under its current policy.

The objective of the Africa Stockpiles Programme (ASP) is an unprecedented partnership between international and nongovernmental organizations, governments, industry, and multi-lateral funds who jointly support the goal of clearing all obsolete pesticide stocks from Africa in an environmentally sound manner and putting in place measures to avoid their accumulation in the future.

The Africa Stockpiles Programme is expected to take 12 to 15 years to complete, with the 2003-2006 Phase One involving about 15 countries.

Pesticide Action Network UK, one of the program partners, says these stockpiles include some of the most toxic pesticides ever made, many of which have been banned for years, such as dieldrin and toxaphene, and some may be up to 40 years old. The dangers to health and the environment worsen with each passing day as the chemicals continue to leak, the environmental organization warns.


Drums of aging pesticides are deteriorating in all African countries (Photo courtesy FAO)
Ian Johnson, vice president for sustainable development at the World Bank, another ASP partner, said, “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 cleanup across the continent, and very much appreciates CropLife International’s commitment.”

CropLife International is the global federation representing the plant science industry. Led by companies such as BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, FMS, Monsanto, Sumitomo and Syngenta, it encompasses a worldwide network of regional and national associations in 85 countries.

CropLife International member companies have already committed to fund the cost of incinerating obsolete stocks that they originally manufactured, CropLife International Director General Dr. Christian Verschueren explained from the federation's headquarters in Brussels.

The increased contribution to the Africa Stockpiles Programme is aimed at making safe particularly hazardous stocks and on the provision of expertise in the management and coordination of disposal operations.

Verschueren said, "Our industry is experienced in executing these highly specialized operations and we are offering our expertise to ensure the ASP succeeds with this ambitious program. We would like to see the 15 year timeframe currently proposed for the project to be reduced if possible, and we will explore ways of achieving this with our partners."

High temperature incineration in dedicated hazardous waste incinerators is the currently recommended method for disposal of obsolete pesticides, as outlined in United Nations Disposal Guidelines issued jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Environment Programme, and the World Health Organization.

But such sophisticated incinerators do not exist in developing countries. The FAO explains that it is necessary to re-package pesticide waste in new UN approved containers where they exist in developing countries, transport them overland to a major port and then by sea to a country where there is a dedicated hazardous waste destruction facility.

Shipment has to comply with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code and the Basel Convention on the restrictions of Transboundary movement of toxic waste. The FAO estimates that the cost of disposal ranges between US$3,000 and US$4,500 per metric ton.

The ASP estimates the total cost for clearing the entire continent of Africa of its stockpiles of obsolete pesticides to be US$150 to 175 million.

Prevention measures will include pesticide use reduction and improved management of pesticides, and will vary with the needs of individual countries. The total budget for prevention measures is estimated at US$50 to 75 million. The total need for funding is expected to be US$200 to 250 million, the ASP estimates.


A farmer in Ghana sprays his cowpeas with pesticide. (Photo by P.Cenini courtesy FAO)
The FAO explains that farmers in developing countries plead for pesticides with which to combat locusts, grasshoppers, other insects, grain eating birds, and rodents that inflict damage to their crops, bringing hunger and misery.

When pesticides reach individual farmers or household dwellers who value them, they are kept in houses with food and animals. Pesticide vendors take the opportunity to promote pesticides aggressively, the FAO says. "It is not uncommon to find pesticides being stored in the open or in heavily populated zones and usually in substandard stores and sold along with food and drinks."

Children are used in advertising sales of pesticides and often get easy access to pesticides, the FAO says. "They play with empty pesticide cans and use them for drinking water or milk. Most pesticide cans litter high streets or are simply dumped in open municipality dumps for subsequent open burning, leading to serious emissions of dioxins," says the UN agency, which has been working to get rid of obsolete pesticides since 1994.

"The potential for environmental disaster will be complicated and more expensive if the situation is not dealt with swiftly and safely," the FAO says.

Partners in the Africa Stockpiles Programme include: the African Development Bank, the African Union, the Basel Convention Secretariat, Canada, CropLife International, the European Union, the Food & Agricultural Organization, 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, the Pesticide Action Network Africa, the Pesticide Action Network UK, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, The United Nations Institute for Training & Research, The World Bank, The World Health Organization, and WWF, the conservation organization.