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Israel To Help Curb Pesticide Pollution In Central Africa 

By Divine Ntaryike Jr. in Douala

Efforts at curbing the impacts of pollution engendered by farmers’ usage of pesticides in Central Africa will, henceforth, benefit support from Israel. The Government of Israel has signed a scientific and technical cooperation accord with the Economic Community of Central African States, CEMAC, to furnish assistance in curbing pollution by pesticides in the six-member bloc.

The deal, concluded last week, falls within the framework of a policy dubbed “techno-diplomacy” by the Hebrew State in Sub Saharan Africa. Beneficiaries include Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, which make up the regional grouping. Experts say, for several years, the region has been grappling with severe pollution from pesticides used by farmers. They argue that the toxic effects on the populations and environment of the region have become a major cause for concern.

Figures indicate that farming is the main occupation for about two-thirds of the active population inhabiting the region. Yet, the same agriculture is rated the biggest source of pollution, owing, mainly, to the abusive use of chemical products in efforts at improving crop yields. According to researchers, the consequences are increasingly obvious and range from; soil degradation, poor harvests, contamination of water sources, damage to biodiversity, to climate change.

The heralded Israeli assistance package includes expertise in the homologation and control of pesticides used in the region through various chromatography methods. Chromatography is a chemical analysis technique usually linked to a detector to undertake qualitative or quantitative testing of the degree of damage done to the environment by chemical substances. According to the terms of the deal, pesticides experts from CEMAC would use Israeli laboratories for experiments. Conservationists in the region are applauding the Israeli assistance.

Central Africa is home to the Congo Basin, the second largest tropical forest belt after the Amazon.  But countries in the region complain that the amount of international assistance they are getting to safeguard their ecosystems is inadequate. A couple of years ago, CEMAC member countries decided to set up a pesticide pollution watchdog, christened the Central African Pesticides Committee abridged as CPAC, in French.

Yet, apart from paperwork and the organisation of a couple of workshops, the structure has contributed very little in tangibly controlling pesticides and conducting studies, to fathom the magnitude of the damage  done to the environment and humans by pesticides in the region.
The signing of the pesticides cooperation deal follows the participation of CPAC delegates at a MASHAV [Israeli Center for International Cooperation] workshop held in Israel in 2008.

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