Chemicals in Africa | WWF

Chemicals in Africa

Posted on 24 September 2013    
 Site contamination is an issue that is faced around the world in both urban and rural areas. Site contamination can exist for many years without being detected. Today site contamination is often identified when there are plans for a site to be re-developed and an assessment for the site is conducted. In the past years industry and community were less informed about the impacts associated with the use of chemicals, pesticides and other harmful substances and hence the disposal of these. Arriving at WWF and being part of the Environmental Hazards Program that deals with hazardous chemicals was such a delight it showed me how much WWF is involved in so many issues and how its working hand in hand with many stakeholders in dealing with this worm that has been eating Africa.

Although Africa is not a major producer of chemicals globally, the risks that it continues to face from chemical use and handling are way higher than in those countries where chemicals are produced. Africans depend mostly on agriculture for survival and hence the need to use chemicals to boost production besides agriculture other sectors which has been using chemicals and finally leading to contamination include the manufacturing industry (food, clothes, etc.), the health sector and the mining sector only to mention a few. The increased use of chemicals in these sectors has been leading to increased contamination of water sources and this in turn has had effects on human beings, animals and plants in the ecosystem.

There has been a high level of groundwater contamination in Africa caused mostly by accidental spills from the surface, pipelines, landfills, septic tanks and land application of wastes and pesticides. Since Africa is heavily dependent of natural resources there has been a lot of contamination arising from the different activities done to extract the different resources such as forest, mineral, water only to mention a few. Current patterns of extraction of non-renewable resources such as gold, diamonds, and crude oil have had an untold impact on the environment.

Most African countries lack the proper policies to deal with issues of environmental issues and contamination. There is a lack of safety and awareness raising programs and that makes it difficult for the people to know the places that are contaminated and ways in which they can avoid contamination. A lot of different stakeholders in Africa seem not to know the problem at hand. This can be seen by the lack of translated or simplified materials for the people who cannot read English or other languages. Lack of sufficient resources to carry out sufficient clean up exercises is seen as a challenge in Africa; this is because funding for clean-up operations in Africa is hard to get and is normally very expensive. Most countries face problems of access to adequate financial resources and their environmental ministries often have smaller budgets and weaker political voices than for example those that directly manage productive natural resources such as agriculture. This has resulted in uncertainty and a reduced ability to plan and carry out core activities. Ability to conduct projects in developing countries is inhibited by work in remote locations, non-ideal working conditions and difficulty with communications. The uncertainties and inaccuracies involved with site assessment in developing countries are almost certain to be greater. There should be development of large scale organic farming programs in order to minimize stockpiles of hazardous chemicals

Chenai Mamvura, WWF ESARPO-Kenya 2013 Volunteer



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