Agriculture is, and will remain for years to come, the main driver of economic development in Africa. For instance, cowpea in West Africa and the common bean in East Africa remain an important source of cash and nutrition in the continent.
Farmers often resort to using chemical pesticide sprays to mitigate the problem of pests. But pesticides are usually applied without taking basic safety precautions such as protecting oneself against the spray mist, or using the correct dosage and intervals between applications.
Consequently, pesticides can pose risks to the health of producers, consumers, and the environment. This can include acute and chronic side effects that can cause skin and neurological disorders. As an analytical chemistry researcher and organic pesticide developer, I have been involved in organizing outreach events to reach out to farmer and trader groups and educate them on the dangers of indiscriminate use of pesticides.
I have found that because the various diseases and health conditions caused by these hazardous chemicals do not take immediate toll on the farmers and traders, these people often ignore the need to take necessary health precautions. The immediate desire to keep their products safe from insect pests and attract buyers takes precedence over any other concern.
Children have a higher risk of exposure to harmful substances used in controlling pests. Research shows that exposing pregnant women to pesticides could cause birth defects in infants. Early exposure could also increase the incidence of brain cancer and leukaemia in children.
One approach to curb or eradicate the use of toxic chemicals in our food is to make safe alternatives available at affordable prices. Organic alternatives such as bio-pesticides, which do not pose health and environmental risks, should be developed, promoted and subsidized to mitigate the use of toxic chemicals.
My innovation is a plant-derived bio-pesticide by the name Molepse Bio resource that helps curb post-harvest losses of maize and other grains. The product is both a repellent and toxic to all major post-harvest pests. The product is formulated from essential oils of different plant species that are available locally. Pest mortality is noticeable within five minutes of fumigation while repellency is immediate. It helps reduce pest infestation and takes control of health issues associated with synthetic pesticides.
The innovation is a major breakthrough with regards to integrated pest management by being economically viable, has social acceptability and poses no risk to human health and the environment. This innovation won the East Africa post-harvest technologies 2017 award sponsored The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and National innovation award 2019 by Kenya National innovation agency (KENIA).The competitions were aimed at developing solutions that address post-harvest losses, one of the leading causes of food insecurity in the world. https://www.nation.co.ke/business/seedsofgold/2301238-3934100-jspet5/index.html
The innovation’s lead consultant who is also my Doctorate supervisor holds a PhD in Analytical Chemistry from Oklahoma State University, USA with over 20 years’ experience in product development. The overall innovation team is highly qualified and seeks to capitalize on the world paradigm shift to bio products, globalization and the agreements on border de-regulations to explore new markets.
The future of farming may very well lie in scientific progress, economic interventions, and binding international agreements, but none of these approaches will succeed without buy-in from those who matter most – the farmers themselves. To be specific, young farmers, who are the futures of farming. Efforts to encourage more youth into agriculture, create jobs, lift people out of poverty, improve life for producers, and deliver investors double-digits returns. Making lives better feels great! Right ?
Participation in the IUPAC next generation would make me share more stories about my innovation in crop protection, seek collaborations for scaling up and connecting with other youth to strengthen the voice, skills, and participation of youth across the world to advocate for youth-identified policy and resource priorities.
Donatus Njoroge, Kenya