PAN UK has launched a three year project funded by the Darwin Initiative to tackle the effects of pesticides on the biodiversity of the Ethiopian Rift Valley by improving the capacity of Ethiopian scientists, farming communities, government agencies and other stakeholders to:
- identify key sites at risk from the harmful environmental effects of agrochemical use;
- monitor, measure and understand such impacts close to biodiversity-rich wetlands;
- develop and implement practical solutions based on agroecological farming; and
- ensure that government policies support biodiversity conservation goals.
The problem with pesticides
Ethiopia’s Rift Valley lakes and salt marshes constitute a unique biodiversity and a major migratory flyway, with over 400 migratory bird species recorded, including the Great White Pelican, Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Ostrich, Imperial Eagle, Lesser Kestrel and Wattled Crane. However, the abundance and diversity of Rift Valley migratory birds is declining, particularly wetland species, with excessive pesticide production and use in nearby areas implicated.
Chemical pesticides also contribute to poverty, as they account for up to 60% of farmer expenditure, yet they are often overused with the resulting pest resistance undermining their effectiveness. Consequently many smallholders are in debt as poor yields fail to cover their high production costs.
Exposure to chemical pesticides also impacts on health and productivity. The United Nations Environmental Programme
recently estimated that the costs of injury (lost work days, outpatient medical treatment, and inpatient hospitalisation) from pesticide poisonings in sub-Saharan Africa were around US$4.4 billion in 2005 – more than the total overseas aid budget for basic healthcare.
In practical terms, the project plans to achieve its aims through a range of complimentary activities.
Capacity building through education and training
- The project will bring a group of Ethiopian scientists to the UK for intensive training on international conventions, pesticides, eco-toxicology, and the ecosystem services approach, while in-country support from international experts will help guide local teams in the design, implementation, analysis and reporting of an ecotoxicological field study in Ethiopia.
- Farmer Field Schools (FFS) will provide farmers with training in sustainable agricultural practices, while simple field skills will also be transferred to local communities via Elementary and High School environment clubs and selected farmers.
- This will comprise both desk study of possible pesticide sources of contamination in the Rift Valley and field survey work to identify pesticide impacts on populations of specific biota in designated habitats. This will include analysis of pesticide residues in water, sediments, and biota, screening them for commonly used chemical pesticides.
- An “involve-all” approach will enable local communities to participate in data collection and assessment of pesticide use, contamination and ecological effects.
Communications and awareness raising
The involve-all methodology will also raise awareness at different levels among pesticide users and those exposed to pesticides about the hazards and the alternatives available:
- Local: Workshops to disseminate results to local populations, via the media, farmers, schools, local groups (tour operators, commercial farms), and local policy decision makers.
- National: A biodiversity stakeholder group will share project results and recommendations to inform policy.
- International: Through project participants’ websites and articles in peer reviewed journals and conferences allowing the lessons learned in Ethiopia to be shared with other poor communities worldwide.
Successful completion of the project will put in place the following measures to enable the ongoing capacity of Ethiopian scientists, farming communities, government agencies and other stakeholders to tackle pesticide impacts:
- National capacity built in ecotoxicological monitoring, with a focus on pesticide use in the Ethiopian Rift Valley, enabling assessment of pesticide contamination and impact on wildlife and food chains of which migratory birds are part;
- Baseline understanding compiled of current biodiversity, pesticide use patterns and effects on key species in aquatic ecosystems, to enable changes in status to be evaluated later;
- Increased uptake of agro-ecological farming methods by trained farmers in cotton-growing project sites (smallholder + plantations);
- Enhanced awareness by rural communities, government agencies and other stakeholders of the adverse effects of pesticide use on Rift Valley aquatic ecosystems and farming livelihoods and of the measures needed to address these;
- National Biodiversity & Agriculture Stakeholder Group established to provide supportive policy environment for sound agricultural practices that conserve biodiversity; and
- Project training methods, monitoring results and lessons emerging made available to relevant stakeholders elsewhere in Ethiopia and beyond.
PAN UK has many years of experience working both in this part of Ethiopia, and in sub-Saharan Africa more generally, and will bring together various partner organisations with the specific experience and expertise necessary for the success of the project.
- Pesticide Action Nexus-Ethiopia (PAN-Ethiopia) - will be responsible for the day to day activities, and will lead the farmer training and supply chain capacity, and coordinate the ecotoxicology monitoring activity.
- Natural Resources Group - will provide technical expertise, including training of Ethiopian partners in monitoring programme design, survey planning and ongoing field and technical support throughout the project.
- Addis Ababa University Department of Zoological Sciences - will provide technical support and links to laboratories and supervision of students.
Who will benefit from the project
Reducing reliance on pesticides is a win-win situation with poverty, health and biodiversity benefits as a result.
- For the farmers trained by the project, reduced pesticide exposure will deliver both economic and health benefits to them, their workers, families and livestock. Cutting agrochemical inputs reduces costs and improves farmers’ incomes, while improving whole-farm productivity.
- By establishing commercial linkages between sustainability initiatives and retailers, the project will also provide a long-term economic case for the continued use, and expansion of, techniques that reduce pesticide use.
- Through the experience and confidence in monitoring pesticide use and contamination levels that the project will provide, local communities will gain a deeper understanding of the value of ecosystem services to their communities, and be empowered to take an active role in planning for the environment and in creating a force for sustainable use of biodiversity.
Ethiopian individuals and institutions
- Will gain experience of environmental monitoring of pesticide impacts, and understand how chemicals can affect ecosystem processes to the detriment of particular ecosystem services.
- By developing technical capacity and document costs and methodologies, local partners will be enabled to continue sensitive ecosystem monitoring and protection.
Find out more about PAN UK projects
The Darwin Initiative is funded by the UK Government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and assists countries that are rich in biodiversity but poor in financial resources to meet their objectives under one or more of the three major biodiversity Conventions: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES); and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), through the funding of collaborative projects which draw on UK biodiversity expertise.