3. Burundi: Toxic pesticides threaten health and environment (Syfia Grands Lacs)

| January 14, 2008

Download this story

Nestor Ntangorane is a Burundian farmer. He says that toxic chemicals such as DDT have always helped him to protect his crops and calls those people who want to ban DDT his enemies.

Many small-scale farmers in Burundi use highly toxic pesticides to protect their corn, bean, and pea harvests from weevils, and to treat cotton and coffee plantations. Some view moves by the Burundi government and United Nations to stop the use of DDT and other highly toxic pesticides as a threat to their livelihoods.

Burundi has signed an international treaty to protect human health and the environment from pesticides known as persistent organic pollutants – chemicals that remain in the environment for long periods, accumulate in human and animal tissue, and travel long distances from their original point of use. The government banned the use of DDT in 1984.

However, Burundi still has no laws regulating pesticide sale. Toxic pesticides like DDT are sold in secret locations at the central market in the capital city of Bujumbura.

Amissi Hamimou is an expert with Burundi’s Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. He says that small-scale farmers choose more toxic pesticides because they are cheaper than modern pesticides that are less dangerous.

L’association burundaise des consommateurs, a Burundian consumers group, is demanding the withdrawal of these products from the black market and the promotion of less toxic pesticides. Burundi’s director of public health has recommended that farmers use pyrethrum, a synthetic version of a chemical naturally produced by some kinds of chrysanthemum flowers.

Salvador Kaboneka is an agronomist with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO. He says the FAO will launch a public awareness campaign about the benefits of less-toxic pesticides and work to discourage merchants who sell DDT.

DDT is among the 12 chemicals listed in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, which came into force in 2004.