Pesticides increasing cancer cases in Uganda

The head of vegetable research at the Namulonge Agricultural Institute[NARO] Idi Ramathan has said Uganda is seeing an increase in cancer cases because of the increased consumption of dangerous chemicals. Speaking at an agricultural exhibition to mark the end of a three year project on health seedlings organized by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture [IITA] Ramathan called on Ugandans to reject vegetables that have been sprayed by pesticides.

“When I get an opportunity to talk to people I always advise them that whenever they go to the market and find vegetables which are sprayed with pesticides they shouldn’t buy them. They should also give a reason why they are not buying which is ‘because you’re going to kill me’ this is a rude statement but it saves lives,” Ramathan said.

He noted that some of the pesticides remain active for 20-28 days noting that there is need to limit their usage by resorting to God given ways to limit pests and diseases than using dangerous chemicals.

“As I’m speaking to you now, at least 3million households are consuming a tomato. If these vegetables are such a must for households why then are they not being given priority?” Ramathan noted.

Brenda Kisingiire speaking on behalf of Paul Mwambu, the commissioner of crop protection in the ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries noted that they are also concerned about farmers using pesticides especially the fungicides on vegetables. She said as ministry they have started a mechanism to reverse the trend. She said they are in the process of developing and concluding a policy which will regulate the use of pesticides.

In his message Mwambu thanked IITA for coming to the farmer’s aid by providing training and access to healthy seedlings.

“Agriculture remains the backbone of Uganda, and Uganda recognizes agriculture as a potential industry to contribute towards reaching vision 2040,” Mwambu said. “We would like to thank all the stake holders more especially IITA; the ministry is always open for any assistance.”

For his part Peter Ebanyat IITA acting Country Director said IITA is an international research organization that seeks through partnerships to deliver solutions to transform African agriculture and focus on addressing issues of poverty, food security and youth agro business. He wondered why Ugandans are abandoning things that used to give them life.

“I grew up in the village and we used to eat bitter vegetables sometimes called herbs but when we came to the urban areas we thought it was time to forget about eating vegetables yet it’s for the betterment of our health,” Ebanyat said.

He added that the project aimed at empowering farmers to produce healthy seedlings and contribute to food security and income generation. He also noted with concern that many markets around Kampala have vegetables on which pesticides are sprayed to preserve them which are then consumed by people yet they are very dangerous. He called for more efforts to reverse the situation.

The exhibition featured farmers who have benefited from the healthy seed project from the districts of Mukono, Luweero, Wakiso, Nakaseke and Kayunga among others.