Some commissioners for agriculture have called on the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC) to ban the use of paraquat for weed control in the country.
Paraquat is a chemical herbicide or weed killer that is highly toxic and used all over the world. It is also known by the brand name Gramoxone.
The call for the ban of paraquat for weed control came at the end of the meeting held at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, in a communiqué on Tuesday.
The theme of the meeting is: “Digital Tools: Disruptive innovations in cassava/maize farming systems’’.
According to the communiqué, the stakeholders said the health and environmental concerns raised by weed scientists about paraquat are too grave to be ignored.
They remarked that a report by a weed scientist at the University of Port Harcourt, Dr Udensi Udensi, titled: “The Rural Appraisal on the Use of Paraquat in Nigeria,” described paraquat as one of the most highly acute toxic herbicides being marketed in the last 60 years.
“Udensi said that paraquat remained one of the pesticides responsible for more fatal poisonings than any other pesticides substances.
“Workers who are exposed to paraquat over a long period have been found to be at an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease later in life,” they said.
They emphasised that another study by Steve Weller, a retired professor of the Purdue University, U. S. and Charles Riches, a weed scientist and agronomist with Agherba Consultants, corroborated Udensi’s position.
They added that the studies stated that the negative effects of paraquat on humans and the potential for short- and long-term negative effects on human health were overwhelmingly strong.
“Even Dr Bukar Usmana, a director with NAFDAC, had said that paraquat has been banned in several countries, so we cannot continue to allow it to come into Nigeria,” they said.
Given the availability of safer and environmentally friendly herbicide alternatives to paraquat in the market, the stakeholders, therefore, urged NAFDAC to hasten the process of banning the chemical from the Nigerian market.
The commissioners said that they would safeguard the health of resource-poor farmers and protect the environment in general.
According to them, alternatives to paraquat that have been found to be safer and equally effective including glyphosate, glufosinate, diphenyl ether, arlyoxyphenoxy-propionate and cyclohexanediones.
The stakeholders also expressed readiness to adopt the IITA digital tools in their states with Delta particularly requesting the support of IITA on the use of videos on Cassava Weed Management and Best Planting practices
The communiqué stated that the meeting was organised in response to the low agricultural productivity, weak extension system in Nigeria and the lack of knowledge and appreciation of the digital tools available in the farming ecosystem.
It stated that the aim was to share the digital tools developed by IITA Projects (African Cassava Agronomy Initiative, Cassava Seeds System (BASICS), Cassava Weed Management Project and IITA Communication) with commissioners of agriculture, permanent secretaries, and other stakeholders.
It said this would help to empower extension workers and farmers.
“The information shared include videos on the Six Steps to Cassava Weed Management and Best Planting Practices that can be played on mini-rechargeable projectors, IITA Herbicides Calculator, Akilimo, radio programmes in English and local languages.
“Others are cassava online electronic-market hosted on Cassava Matters website, Viamo 3-2-1 service on Airtel, Seed Tracker, and IITA News App.
“Through this approach, states across Nigeria will have access to improved agronomy recommendations and be able to increase their agricultural productivity (especially for maize and cassava) and ultimately the incomes of farmers,” it stated.
NAN reports that NAFDAC had in 2019 announced plans to ban the use of paraquat by farmers amid mounting evidence that the product is harmful to the environment and it has been associated with liver, lungs, kidneys, cancer and the nervous system diseases.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that other stakeholders at the meeting included Permanent Secretaries of Agricultural Ministries and Programme Managers of Agricultural Development Programmes (ADP), Catholic Relief Services and IITA scientists.