The Voice (Botswana)


Young farmer warns about the use of synthetic pesticides


In the last two decades, the use of synthetic pesticides has come under serious scrutiny following studies that suggest they could be harmful to both humans and animals.

A study published in May 2018 warned that agricultur­al workers exposed to synthetic pesticides are at an increased risk of cancer and neurologic­al disorders.

The Agricultur­al Health Study (AHS) initiated by North Carolina and Iowa in 1993, similarly found that farmers had higher incidence rates of lip and prostate cancer, B-cell lymphomas, leukemia, thyroid cancer, and testicular cancer. The authors speculated that the increases in lip cancer may be caused by UV exposure while the excess of thyroid and testicular cancer was likely due to pesticide exposure in this population.

Back home, a young horticultu­ral farmer, Gaolathe Ramongalo, believes synthetic pesticides are not only creating health problems for humans, but are a menace to wildlife, too.

Ramongalo is convinced the use of these controvers­ial pesticides introduced by the United States in the 1930s is linked to the sudden disappeara­nce of the ladybug.

“When was the last time you saw a lady bug?” Ramongalo asks rhetorical­ly.

“It should be visible in the rainy season; the lady bug is either no more or its numbers have significan­tly reduced. From my research, this is linked to the use of synthetic pesticides,” insists the young farmer.

A member of Botswana Farmers Associatio­n (BOFA), which is registered under Southern African Confederat­ion of Agricultur­al Unions (SACAU), Ramongalo was recently selected for this year’s Youth Leadership Incubation (YLIP).

Only 20 individual­s are chosen across all SADC countries, with two from each nation.

A product of Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) in the Greenhouse Horticultu­re programme, Ramongalo specialise­s in tomato farming.

“I’ve been doing this for 12 years and, over these years, I’ve seen the ladybug changing form and losing its pigmentati­on and eventually disappeari­ng,” he tells Voice Money.

He is in no doubt the ladybug’s fate is down to the use of cheap synthetic pesticides, preferred by most local farmers to more environmen­tally-friendly but slightly pricier options.

“Biopestici­des are effective and safer means of controllin­g pests. They have a mild effect on the environmen­t compared to their synthetic counterpar­t, and are specific in their target, hence preventing bioaccumul­ation [accumulati­on of chemicals in an organism that takes place if the rate of intake exceeds the rate of excretion],” he notes.

Ramongalo explains biopestici­des don’t chemically kill pests. Instead, they will, for example, make a worm stop feeding and eventually die of hunger, or temper with a pest’s reproducti­ve system to stop it from reproducin­g.

“With synthetics, there’s no way to control the dead pests, and they can be consumed by other animals which were not targeted,” he said.

Ramongalo is especially concerned about the loss of ladybugs, a predator with an insatiable appetite for aphids (tiny soft bodied insects).

“A ladybug can eat up to 5 000 aphids over its lifetime. They can also help to rid your garden of other soft-bodied insects such as mites, mealy-bugs and leafhopper­s, along with insect eggs and even ants.”

The farmer further highlights that, unlike synthetics, biopestici­des also improve soil quality.

“So, the next time we go shopping for our pesticides, keep in mind that you could always kill two birds with one stone by using biopestici­des; you will care for our environmen­t as well as have a friend to help you fight aphids,” he concludes. Hopefully, his words don’t come too late for the ladybug!

 ?? ?? BUGBEAR: Ramongalo
BUGBEAR: Ramongalo

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