Adefolake Adekola: We Need to Stop Using Sniper on Our Food in Nigeria
We need to use Integrated Pest Management systems to effectively control pest and prevent illegal use.
I once came across a video of a woman trying to buy stockfish from a man. She was asking him why he uses Sniper to preserve the stockfish, and he said, “Everybody dey use am, nobody dey wey no dey use am.” Shock gripped me as I watched the video. Then I quickly remembered a rumor I had heard, that this same sniper was used to preserve beans.
A few days prior to that, a lady had used Sniper to wash her hair and died in her sleep. Sniper is a pesticide not food preservative. We need to understand that sniper is intended for use as a pesticide for crops. Farmers and traders shouldn’t use it to preserve food.
Pests, which are organisms that attack food, crops and livestock, can become a menace to farmers if not properly mitigated against or handled. They are disease-carrying organisms that destroy farmlands, clothing, buildings, etc. Examples of pest are: termites, caterpillars, mosquitoes, fleas, cockroaches, bedbugs, weeds, snakes, rats. Pests are not generally harmful; they are only harmful when they are detrimental to plants, animals or humans. They can be beneficial under different circumstances or conditions. These pests often lead to a low crop yield for farmers, because of destruction of their produce before harvest, or even while in storage. Hence, the reason pesticides are used to curb their impact on crops and animals.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defined pesticides as a universal name given to different forms of chemical compounds used to kill pests. Fungicides, biocides, herbicides and insecticides are all forms of pesticides used. There are several pesticides that have been banned in Nigeria, but Nigerians, for selfish reasons, continue to use them on food, crops and livestock. Examples of these banned pesticides are: Aldrin, Carbamates, DDT, Toxaphene.
Environmental & Health Effects of Pesticides
- Pesticides pollute water, which can lead to the death of waterbodies such as fish.
- They lead to soil pollution that accumulates in the soil for up to 20 years or more, and may appear in the food chain (bioaccumulation and biomagnification).
- Air pollution is a major effect of pesticides, and can lead to severe health problems.
- The health effects of pesticides are limitless, because one health problem can lead to another. Examples are: skin diseases, respiratory problems, food poisoning, cancer and can eventually lead to death.
There are three main ways pesticides can be introduced to humans. They are: dermal (skin), oral (mouth) and inhalation (nostrils) exposures. Now traders have started using it directly on produce [fresh fruit and vegetables grown for the market] to prevent pests without informing the buyers.
Although the use of pesticides is necessary, it is to be used under policies and guidelines that have been approved by the regulatory bodies responsible. Which is why the proper implementation of Integrated Pest Management is needed urgently in Nigeria.
So what is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?
As defined by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices.”
Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations defines IPM as “the careful consideration of all available pest control techniques and subsequent integration of appropriate measures that discourage the development of pest populations and keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified and reduce or minimize risks to human health and the environment.”
IPM is an effective way of handling pest management, using methods such as pest-resistant plants, natural predators, and other methods. They can be cultural, mechanical, physical and biological. There are different pest strategies and tactics that can be used to effectively eliminate pest problem, without farmers or market individuals using it directly on food products, which can cause harm to humans. Some steps such as intercropping with aromatic herbs to prevent insects, crop rotation and pruning, are examples of strategies in IPM.
While speaking with the Environmental Safeguard Specialist of the Transforming Irrigation Management in Nigeria (TRIMING) Project, Oyebankole Agbelusi, he mentioned the importance of IPM in Nigeria. Lack of adequate knowledge on the effects of the wrong usage of pesticides or the usage of banned pesticides is what has led some Nigerians to use pesticides, such as sniper, to preserve dry fish and other food produce in the market, and even go as far as using it on the human body.
Most recently, it is being used as a suicide drug, which has led to hundreds of death across the country. Around June this year, it was published across media outlets that the Senate is looking to ban sniper as a pesticide in Nigeria. Our problem is beyond the banning of one pesticide. What then happens to the one the market traders use on our food that causes diseases which lead to death. The difference between suicide and this is: suicide is an individual decision, but the use of sniper and other pesticides on food directly is Nigerians slowly killing fellow Nigerians because of their pockets.
We as citizens of this great nation need to do better. Just like the woman that sent the video of the man using it in Oyingbo market, we need to report such cases and take necessary actions. Most importantly, we need to use Integrated Pest Management systems to effectively control pest and prevent illegal use.