Greening the Agricultural Sector through capacity development on pesticide residue testing
Pesticide use is an integral part of agriculture and in Mauritius, the cultivation of agro-products rely heavily on chemical pesticides. Though pesticides use has contributed to improved food production, its inefficient and excessive use in food production constitutes potential occupational hazards for farmers, environmental risks for agricultural ecosystems and consumers.
The application of pesticides constitute a source of contamination for the agro-products as well as for the soil. These chemicals represent a major health hazard for consumers. Also, the pesticides present in the soil contaminate the ecosystem and have a direct impact on the biodiversity. Exessive pesticide use also affect the fertility ofthe soil and negatively impact on the productivity levels.
Moreover, during irrigation and in the event of heavy rainfall, excess of pesticides on plants and in the soil percolate in the soil or are washed down to the nearest water courses thus contaminating the water bodies. This may seriously affect potable waters and represent a health hazard. The presence chemical pesticides can also affect the ecosystem of the water bodies and have serious negative impacts on their biodiversity.
The objective of the project aims at assessing the impact ofchemical pesticides on the agricultural sector by developing a comprehensive frameowrk for the testing of pesticide residues in ground water and surface water. This will in turn help to enhance the water quality of our water bodies and ocntribute t the greening of the agricultural sector.
The agricultural sector in Mauritius relies heavily on the use of chemical pesticides. When applied in large quantities, these constitute a threat to the environment and biodiversity. Consumers are also exposed to pesticides through small amounts of these substances which constitute ‘pesticide residues’ and can be found on or in harvested products. These pesticides may also be found in the soil or in water bodies where they are either washed down. Underground waters may also be affected through leaching.
In view of the above, it is important that the presence of chemical pesticides be closely monitored. The National Environmental Laboratory (NEL) of the Ministry of Environment, Solid Waste Management and Climate Change has developed a project: “Greening the Agricultural Sector through capacity development on pesticide residue testing” which will provide the necessary framework for the testing of pesticide residue in environmental media. NEL is the scientific arm of the Ministry of Environment and carries out monitoring of air quality and water quality (including surface, underground, coastal and waste waters) and sediments. Currently NEL does not have the capacity to carry out testing for pesticide residues in the environmental media.
The project aims at carrying out a situational analysis and propose a framework to support pesticide residue testing at NEL. The project willl also elaborate a pesticide monitoring programme with quality assurance procedures for surface and ground water. This framework will enable the detection of the presence of pesticide residues and ensure a close monitoring of water quality in both surface and ground water.
The project will lead ot the formulation of policies and regulations to control the variety of and quantity of pesticides which are applied in fields. This will promote compliance to the use of pesticides and encourage the shift to organic pesticides and adoption of sustainable agricultural practices.
A minimised and regulated use of chemical pesticides will also promote the production of safe food as there will less risks of contamination. Furthermore, a reduced application of chemical pesticides in fields will decrease environmental hazards in terms of contamination of soil, negative impact on soil fertility and biodiversity as well as decreased risks on contamination of surface water adn ground water.