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Obsolete Pesticide Stocks – The Past 25 Years, Lessons Learned and Observations for the Future

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The authors pass on a few lessons learned during their 25 year experience: National and international “champions” are needed because external “push” is hopeless without internal “pull”. The national champion must be someone influential in either the Ministry of Agriculture or Environment and requires sufficient permanence in the position to see a project through to completion. The international champion should facilitate the technical expertise, financial support and key contacts with donor agencies. An international expert organisation to co-ordinate activities is essential. FAO is the best fit, with its dedicated group, considerable experience, established database and website, and local missions with direct access to national governments. Inventories and disposal need to be undertaken within a short time-frame or stocks can disappear or increase by the time the collection and disposal team arrives. Potential donors for disposal need to be lined up from the beginning or a further inventory can become necessary if the lead time for funds is too long. In acute situations, safeguarding operations are necessary to stabilize the stock until the disposal operation can start. Surgical initiatives removing the most risky stocks are better than nothing and are appropriate for projects where an acute risk is presented to local communities. Good collaboration between local Ministries of Agriculture and Environment is essential as both ministries are needed. National legislation can block project progress. One country currently holding a large stock of a POP pesticide does not permit the exportation of hazardous waste and so, even though full funding for the exportation and incineration is available, the funding partners have been obliged to withdraw after helping to safeguard the stock. A local court order stimulated by representations from NGOs and the public can sometimes help generate the momentum needed to get a project started. In one country, a school felt threatened by an adjacent pesticide store and the Supreme Court issued a mandamus ordering the government to take action. This helped facilitate a country-wide clean-up initiative funded by GIZ and two CropLife International-associated companies. There is evidence that some countries faced with no disposal project on the horizon have resorted to burying stocks in remote locations. Although there has been significant progress over the past 25 years with the disposal of obsolete pesticide stocks, there is still a long way to go. It was disheartening in 2005 to see the unused pesticides supplied for a single locust campaign exceed the total of obsolete stocks destroyed over the previous 10-year period. Supplying pesticides is far easier than getting rid of those that eventually become no longer usable, for whatever reason. Good product stewardship must be an indispensable requirement for all those in the supply chain, including donor agencies, manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and users alike. Even when all parties work together, the vagaries of nature can result in pesticide stocks exceeding requirement, then deteriorating with time and then requiring collection and safe disposal. It is beyond the scope of this paper to analyse the whole complex picture. The following are some observations for the future: Clearly, the disposal of obsolete stocks needs to exceed their generation, so prevention is the direction to go. However, this is far easier said than done with the unpredictable locust control situation and requires the strict attention of donors and others in the purchase and supply chain, and perhaps a rapid supply strategy. Post-sale stewardship needs to be a tender requirement. FAO is the natural global coordinator for the issue of obsolete pesticide stocks but the research-based manufacturers know their products better than others and so a close FAO/CropLife International/donor/country working relationship on the issue is essential (and has developed). Progress with the ASP was disappointingly slow and a simpler and faster modus operandi is required for the future. If a country does not have the capacity to establish and run a project it should be provided with a funded project (by a donor agency and/or other parties) rather than be given funds for establishing and running the project themselves. Removal of large amounts of government-owned stocks is generally a one-off project that requires highly specialised knowledge and resources and so it is better to provide a country with a defined and funded professional service rather than try to train local staff to run such projects for which there will be little regular future need. However, a “prevention” component should be included each time and it is that which should be the focus of local training. Safeguarding initiatives need to continue but these stocks will eventually become a problem of the future if they are not destroyed within a reasonable period and so there needs to be linkage to a disposal initiative. International shipping is becoming more of a problem because shipping lines currently have enough normal commercial freight business and there are signs of reluctance to accept hazardous waste. This will lead invariably to higher transport costs and delays. Donor loss of interest in obsolete stock project funding may be developing. Climate Change has become the favourite environmental issue and obsolete stocks have fallen off many agendas. Security of the stock collection field teams is a growing problem that is inhibiting some projects – Mali and Pakistan (Quetta) are two current areas of concern.
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Keywords: AFRICA STOCKPILES PROGRAMME; BASEL CONVENTION; CROPLIFE INTERNATIONAL; FAO; GIZ; INCINERATION; OBSOLETE PESTICIDES; ORGANOCHLORINE; POPS; STOCKHOLM CONVENTION

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2013

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