Stockpiles of obsolete pesticides in Africa higher than expected, UN says

Stockpiles of obsolete pesticides in Africa higher than expected, UN says

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The amount of toxic waste stemming from obsolete pesticides in Africa is more than double previous estimates, threatening the health of the poor and contributing to land degradation and water pollution, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.

The amount of toxic waste stemming from obsolete pesticides in Africa is more than double previous estimates, threatening the health of the poor and contributing to land degradation and water pollution, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.

"Every African country has stockpiles of obsolete pesticides and associated waste such as heavily contaminated soils and millions of containers," Alemayehu Wodageneh, an FAO expert on obsolete pesticides, told a meeting in Rome. The agency estimates that the toxic waste in Africa alone amounts to around 120,000 of the more than 500,000 tons worldwide. FAO previously estimated the amount in Africa at around 50,000 tons, with about 30 per cent of the waste believed to be persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

In nearly a decade, less than 5 per cent of the estimated stockpiles have been disposed of. FAO successfully concluded the disposal of close to 3,000 tons in more than 10 countries in Africa and the Near East in close collaboration with bilateral partners. FAO's biggest clean-up project, in Ethiopia, currently aims to remove over 3,000 tons.

According to FAO, the management of pesticides in many developing countries is often inadequate due to a lack of resources. Many of these countries suffer from weak import controls, poor storage and stock management, and a lack of training in appropriate pesticide use. Over the past years, FAO has trained thousands of plant protection experts in pesticide control and management.

The condition of obsolete pesticide stocks varies from well-stored products that can still be used in the field to products that have entirely leaked from corroded steel drums and other containers into the soil.

In many cases products are stored in the open where they are exposed to great temperature fluctuations and other damaging conditions, which accelerate the deterioration of the pesticides as well as their containers. However, even where storage conditions are good, the length of storage and the nature of the products have resulted in container corrosion and product leakage.