A strengthened pesticide management system enhances the protection of humans, animals and the environment, thereby advancing ONE HEALTH’s global goals and targets. Pesticides play an important role in agricultural development; they reduce the loss of agricultural products and improve the yield and quality of agricultural produce. At the same time, pesticides, especially Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) used in many countries for agricultural and public health purposes, may pose significant health and environmental risks. HHPs are pesticides which are acknowledged to present particularly high levels of acute or chronic hazards to health or the environment according to internationally accepted classification systems such as WHO or Global Harmonized System (GHS) or their listing in relevant binding international agreements or conventions.
Following the FAO/WHO Guidelines on HHPs, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Government of Zimbabwe, through the Ministries responsible for Health, Agriculture and the Environment, undertook a three stepwise approach for HHP risk reduction namely identification, assessment and mitigation. The process started off the identification of 44 HHPs according to the eight FAO/WHO criteria. In 2022, an inclusive multisectoral process involving the aforementioned Ministries undertook a study to identify HHPs and risks associated with their management and use. The study collected data on farmers’ and Retailers’ Pesticides, Knowledge, Attitude and Practices. The study identified more HHPs used in Zimbabwe; assessed the risks associated with pesticide handling; investigated the availability and use; and assessed regulatory compliance by pesticide retailers in the country.
“The international and regional chemicals management instruments, including the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), which Zimbabwe is a party to, recognise HHPs as an issue of concern and call for a concerted action to address them. This launch is one of the many activities through which FAO has shown its continued support to sustainable pesticide management in Zimbabwe, as the country thrives on adopting good practices that can be replicated and scaled up to address existing gaps and constraints,” said Professor Jiri, Chief Director – Agricultural and Rural Development Advisory Services Directorate in a speech read on behalf of Dr John Basera, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development.
Over 100 stakeholders in the pesticides management value chain came together in Harare to appreciate the report’s findings and launch a national HHPs mitigation strategy while fostering collaborative synergies among stakeholders key to sustainable pesticide use in Zimbabwe. The study was conducted under the auspices of the European Union-funded Capacity Building Related to Multilateral Environmental Agreements of African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP-MEAs 3) through the thematic working group on HHPs.
“I want to highlight that the HHP study we are launching today and the inception of a strategy to mitigate the impact of HHPs in agriculture aligns with the core narrative guiding FAO’s Strategic Framework. Through the ACP-MEAs 3 project, FAO has facilitated and provided technical assistance to identify and undertake the HHP national survey as part of the risk and needs assessment. We are happy to celebrate together with the government of Zimbabwe to launch this important report,” said Patrice Talla, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa, in a speech read on his behalf by Louis Muhigirwa, FAO Deputy Representative to Zimbabwe.
Following up on a presentation of the ACP-MEAs 3 HHPs thematic group findings, the launch informed the development of a national HHPs mitigation strategy framed under short-term, mid-term and long-term interventions. The launch agreed that the strategy would be bound by guiding principles which will factor and incorporate constitutional and national blueprints such as the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) and the WHO/GHS to develop a strengthened pesticide management system that reduces the risk of HHPs to the best of its ability.
A presentation on the inception of the HHP mitigation strategy set the roadmap for Zimbabwe to reduce the human and environmental risks associated with handling and using HHPs. Critical issues raised as part of the mitigation strategy were the need to train and raise the awareness of farmers, retailers and all key stakeholders on the HHPs, and to develop alternatives or phase out plans for the HHPs. Other elements of the HHP strategy plan that were prioritized included strengthening the enforcement and regulation of pesticides including HHPs and providing the legal environment that allows bio-pesticide registration.
In consultation with all relevant stakeholders, FAO and the Government of Zimbabwe will develop a draft HHP mitigation strategy. The draft will be presented to all stakeholders through national consultation workshops. The government of Zimbabwe will validate and endorse the final draft strategy, to take forward the efforts to reduce the impact of HHPs in Zimbabwe.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of FAO Regional Office for Africa.