Risk of agrochemicals on the environment and human health- in Mukaro location, Nyeri County, Kenya
Gitahi, Moses Wang’ombe
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Agriculture sector in Kenya has remained pivotal to the national economy with a direct relationship between its performance and overall national economic growth. Agricultural production is nonetheless constrained by various diseases, insect pests, and low soil fertility thus necessitating mitigation by use of agrochemicals which are, however, potentially harmful to man and the environment. The broad objective of this research was to assess the human and environmental health risks posed by the use of agrochemicals within Mukaro location of Nyeri County of Kenya. This study was undertaken in a period of four months between August and November 2010. Six sub-locations out of twenty two were randomly selected in the location and a total of 370 respondents used in the study. Multistage sampling was exercised during selection of the sampling units while simple random sampling was used to obtain the households that participated in the interview. Data was collected through interviews by use of structured questionnaires. Key informants interviews were conducted with the aid of a questionnaire. Direct observation was important in verifying some of the information collected during household interviews. Data collected was summarized, organized and cleaned using SPSS version 20. Analysis was done to establish relationships between variables and the results presented in frequency tables, graphs and narratives. The findings show that 80% of famers had little knowledge on the use of agrochemicals,52% of the farmers used agrochemicals in order to increase yield as well as to control pest and disease,69% of farmers had some ailment they attributed to the use of agrochemicals, 96.6 % had eye irritation and 48% had skin irritation. The proportions of the farmers ratings of the risks of the agrochemicals on human health differed significantly p (X²≥ 55.210, 2df) =0.0001, α 0.05. The study also established that 69% of farmers had not received training on agrochemicals usage, effects on human health and on the environment. Farming experience influenced the respondents‘ perception on agrochemicals risk on the environment significantly p (X²≥19.500, 4df)=0.0001, α 0.05.The study concluded that farmers have inadequate knowledge, attitude and practices with regard to use of agrochemicals in crop production thus result in adverse environmental and human health effects. The farmers applied pesticides without adequate understanding of pest ecology, economic injury level, types of pesticides to control specific insect pests, their quantities and methods of application, time lapse between and spraying and precautionary safety measures needed during routine application in anticipation of pest (disease, insect) outbreaks in the area. From the findings the research recommends that sensitization campaigns to educate farmers on proper and efficient use of agrochemicals to improve productivity as well as prevent adverse environmental and human health effects should be done. The study also recommends for the adoption and use of the appropriate training and information dissemination methods on agrochemicals to the farmers.