Africa needs to address the threat that existing and increasing chemical use will have on human and environmental health. As the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM) noted:

“The sound management of chemicals is essential to achieve sustainable development, including the eradication of poverty and disease, the improvement of human health and the environment and the elevation and maintenance of the standard of living in all countries at all levels of development”
(SAICM 2006).

Developing a more effective chemical management system requires addressing the specific challenges Africa faces in management. There is already an extensive global system for chemical management, and it is important not to duplicate efforts but to create synergies and better systems for implementation. Africa faces challenges related to the availability of information and the communication of this to users, inadequate capacity to effectively monitor the use of chemicals, lack of access to cleaner production systems and technologies for waste management, as well as poor capacity to deal with poisoning and contamination. The management of obsolete chemicals, stockpiles and waste presents serious threats to human well-being and the environment in many parts of Africa.

As chemical use and production increases Africa’s chemical management institutions, which already have limited resources and capacity, will be further constrained and overburdened and will not cope. Measures and systems need to be developed to reduce exposure to negative impacts and to reduce human vulnerability.


Contaminated sites and obsoletes stocks present serious problems for Africa and require immediate actions. Estimates suggest that across Africa at least 50 000 tonnes of obsolete pesticides have accumulated (NEPAD 2003). Box 6 describes the extent of the problem in Tanzania. These hazardous pesticides are contaminating soil, water, air, and food sources. They pose serious health threats to rural as well as urban populations and contribute to land and water degradation.

Box 6: The challenge of obsolete pesticides in Tanzania

The exact quantity of obsolete pesticides in Tanzania is not known, since a comprehensive study to determine location, quantities, types and state has not been carried out. Nevertheless, information gathered through surveys and public complaints provides a conservative estimate of more than 90 tonnes.

Preliminary data on obsolete pesticides at Arusha and Tanga, Tanzania*
Trade name Common name Quantity
Gesaprim Atrazine 470 litres
Actellic super dust pirimiphos methyl + permethrin 10 kg
Benlate benomyl 11 kg
DDT   40 tonnes
Thiodan endosulfan 8 tonnes
DNOC   3 000 litres
* collected by a team of experts formed by NEMC

Other significant stockpiles include:

  • Unused or obsolete pesticides on private farms and in warehouses of cooperatives in cotton and coffee growing areas. An inventory conducted in seven regions in October 1989 by National Environment Management Council (NEMC), in collaboration with Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) revealed these stocks including 18 tonnes of DDT and DDT formulations.
  • There are about 11 000 litres and 350 kg of the organophosphates Damfin P (methacrifos) and phosphamidon and the fungicide Thiovat (sulphur) in the Co-operative and Rural Development Bank (CRDB) warehouse in Mikocheni, on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, since 1988.
  • About 40 000 litres of expired pesticides are located in cotton growing regions of Mwanza and Shinyanga in the southern part of Lake Victoria. The products, which include endosulfan, flumeturon, atrazine, malathion and methidathion and DDT were found during a baseline survey conducted by the Tanzania-Germany Project on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in 1993.
  • Between 15 and 20 tonnes of expired Decis 0.5 per cent (deltamethrin), DDT 75 per cent, Thiodan (endosulfan) and Cottoran 500 (fluometuron) are stored in the Tanzania Cotton Marketing Board warehouses, Eastern zone.
  • A dump of 50 tonnes at Vikunge farm in the coastal region consists of DDT, aldrin and endrin. This is part of a consignment bought as aid through the Ministry of Agriculture from Greece in 1987.

Source: Rwazo 1997


Box 7: Global support to reduce Africa’s chemical stockpiles

The Rabat Programme of Action (Basel Convention) agreed to enhance the capacity of the region to:

  • prevent the future accumulation of unwanted stocks of pesticides (including DDT), PCBs, and used oils;
  • dispose of existing stocks of unwanted pesticides, PCBs, and used oils in a manner that is environmentally-sound, and socially and economically acceptable;
  • develop a partnership with all stakeholders to address the environmentally-sound management of unwanted stocks of pesticides, PCBs, and used oils; and
  • strengthen existing logistical and financial approaches, and pursue alternative and innovative approaches at the national, sub-regional, regional, and global levels to prevent and dispose of unwanted stocks of pesticides, PCBs, and used oils.

Source: CSE 1999

Poor people often suffer a disproportionate burden. In poor communities these dangers are compounded by a range of factors including unsafe water supplies, poor working conditions, illiteracy, and lack of political empowerment (ASP 2003). Poor communities often live in closer proximity to obsolete pesticide stocks than wealthy people. Children may face heightened exposure and where they do are at higher risk than adults. The WHO estimates that pesticides may cause 20 000 unintentional deaths per year and that nearly three million people may suffer specific and non-specific acute and chronic effects, mostly in developing countries (ASP 2003). The risk faced by poor communities is exacerbated by inadequate access to healthcare systems; this is particularly the case for farming communities.

As in other fields of environmental management, partnerships that bring together a range of actors including the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and governmental organizations can be an effective way of addressing problems. The Africa Stockpiles Programme (ASP) is a global programme supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Prominent partners include the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), WWF – the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). The objective of ASP is to clean up and safely dispose of all obsolete pesticide stocks in Africa and to establish preventive measures to avoid future accumulation so as to protect human and environmental health. Box 7 gives an example of one global initiative that supports Africa’s efforts to reduce its chemical stockpiles.


Although the use of POPs is regulated under international law, specifically in the Stockholm Convention, some are exempt from its provisions. In Africa these include DDT and Chlordane. The reasons for these exemptions are multifold, with both cost of alternatives and effectiveness being important considerations. In some cases, such as for DDT and chlordane, the objective is to give the exempted countries the opportunity to find suitable alternatives that are consistent with their social and economic situation before completing phase-out. The lack of public knowledge about possible alternatives is undoubtedly a factor in their continued use.

Poly-chlorinated biphenyls are mainly used in the manufacture of electrical equipment for electrical insulation. They are used in transformers and capacitors. These are persistent chemicals that do not break down easily and therefore their control and management is a serious challenge for Africa. Management requires undertaking complete inventories, preventing further releases into the environment, managing the stocks and contaminated sites and finally disposal. These challenges are enormous especially if considered within the context of the socioeconomic context of African countries.

Controlling emissions of dioxins and furans also presents a formidable challenge to African countries because of the potential impact on human health and environment. Technical and operational modifications to the industry and related attitude changes are required.