Promoting sustainable agriculture – a look at the Small Island Developing States of Cabo Verde, São Tome and Principe

Developing countries are awash with pesticides; building public awareness of their risks remains a major challenge.

September 2016, Rome – “Urgent action is needed to secure the future and food security of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) against the disproportionate effects of climate change,” said FAO’s Director-General Graziano da Silva at a recent conference.

For the island states of Cabo Verde, São Tome and Principe, this is just one concern in ensuring food security for all. That security also hinges heavily on developing their capacities to farm independently and thus become less reliant on imported food supplies.

Each country is poor in natural resources and arable land, and prone to drought – building sustainable agriculture systems is therefore no easy matter.

A meeting in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, last year, saw the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP) join forces with the Rotterdam Convention (RC) to agree on a new strategy to monitor the food and nutrition security of countries, in particular the SIDS.

As is the case for farmers around the world, pesticides - including insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides and nematicides - are used to boost crop production. Though they can have negative impacts on the environment and human health, their appeal in increasing crop production is ongoing.

This, despite the fact that a 2012 FAO study analysing data from 1990 to 2009 found that a 1.9 percent increase in pesticide use only led to a one percent gain in crop output.

With little firm research available to establish how widely pesticides were being used on Cabo Verde, São Tome and Principe, FAO began an EU-funded study mission to each island in July, to review the use of pesticides in rural communities. The target of the mission was to first confirm if pesticides were being used, and then later to inform of the dangers associated with their use.

In São Tome and Principe, family farmers across the islands were observed wearing no protective clothing or equipment in their work. A long-term target is to build awareness of the risks associated with the use of pesticides and to promote the use of safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals.

In its undertaking to support the islands through policy advice, analysis and technical assistance, FAO also aims to help achieve sustainable development.

As a further measure to improve pesticide management and to avoid potentially serious poisonings, FAO is calling on all countries to adhere to an International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management – a voluntary framework that promotes best practices to prevent and reduce exposure to pesticides during handling, storage, transport, use and disposal.

A knowledge-sharing meeting is to be held in January 2017 to review the practices in Cabo Verde, São Tome and Principe and to adopt a framework to introduce alternatives to hazardous pesticides into farming methods.