The Rwandan population may be headed for a widespread, but slow health crisis resulting from contaminated milk and dairy products including meat and poultry products, Taarifa investigation has established.
Field details indicate that farmers in Eastern Province of the country are mixing crop and livestock pesticides to fight a range of parasites that attack poultry, cattle, goats and pigs.
For those using this concoction to kill pests on cows, there are high chances that traces of it end up in the milk and meat according to independent veterinary experts.
Rwandan government has distributed more than 130,000 cows through ‘Girinka’ program (one-cow-per family) to 350,000 families. Much of this milk is consumed at household levels and the surplus supplied to milk collection centers also from which the general public buys milk.
However, a veterinary official at Kiziguro sector, Gatsibo district says all milk at collection centres is first tested; “we are lucky that all the milk in our sector is very clean and free from contamination,” he said.
An independent scientist told Taarifa that regular testing at milk collection centres only checks for presence of antibiotics and mastitis. However, he adds that testing for Cypermethrin, Profenofos, cyper 5% EC, acelamectin, fenous may require a more specialised laboratory.
According to independent experts, crop pesticide chemicals may gradually build up in livestock overtime and may not be readily detected at milk collection centres.
“When consumed overtime, these chemicals may inhibit human immune systems, may also cause humans to resist against certain medicines,” Chris Rugamba a veterinary practitioner told Taarifa.
According to a small scale herder in Gatsibo district who prefers to only be identified by his first name Gasana, “We normally mix ‘Rocket’ and ‘Dudu’ pesticides with another anti-pest drug,” he says, adding that this is the most effective combination that eliminates pests from livestock.
For many years, herders in Rwanda have been using ‘Spona’ pesticides also known as Diazinon, highly effective against many external livestock and pet parasites; flies, ticks, mites, lice, fleas, mosquitoes, blowfly strike, and many others.
However, veterinary experts argue that Diazinon (spona) seems to have lost its effectiveness against these parasites which may have become resistant to this chemical.
Herders have chosen to mix it with Rocket or Dudu to wipe out parasites that torment their livestock.
Jean Claude Musabyimana, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, told Taarifa on Saturday that the ministry is unaware of the malpractice. “I am not aware of that farmers are mixing those drugs”, he said before expressly terminating the conversation.
At least a sizeable number of these families have Rocket, Dudu and Deer dip pesticides which they mix with Spona to manage pests infesting their livestock.
Rocket is a pesticide made of ‘Profenofos 40% and Cypermethrin 4%’ chemicals usually sprayed on mango plants to kill and sometimes to prevent attacks from particular insect pests at flowering stages. This Rocket is also used against pests that attack several other crops and vegetables.
Because of the effectiveness of Rocket against a wide range of insect pests, farmers have found it necessary to also use it on livestock to kill flee, ticks, mites and other dangerous flies.
However, traces of rocket chemical are now present in milk and meat innocently being consumed on market.
Gasana has also revealed that there are special cases in which some livestock especially goats, pigs and cows and poultry have died after being sprayed with an overdose of concoctions made from rocket chemical.
Another abused crop pesticide known as Dudu ‘Acelamectin 5% EC -100ml’ is smuggled from Tanzania- farmers also mix it with Spona to spray on livestock to kill ticks, mites and other pests.
There are incidences where animals sprayed with this Dudu chemical develop breathing problems while farmers suffer itchy skins and eyes swell including vomiting and nausea.
This chemical is an agricultural combined insecticide or miticide for effective control of leaf miners, thrips, mites, beetles, fruit flies, plant bugs, fire ants and so many more insect pests on all crops.
Crop husbandry experts told Taarifa that this chemical product Dudu has rapid knockdown effect and gives substantial control in time.
Kevin Odobo, an agriculture expert, says that it is unbelievable anyone would apply a crop chemical on animals.
“The effects are deadly,” he says. “In fact, to be able to know that the chemical found itself in the milk or meat, you need a thorough lab test with the aim of identifying that particular chemical, those tests at milk collection centers cannot tell if it has the chemical.”
Dudu is produced from a combination of cyper 5% EC, acelamectin, fenous, and super with ability to remain effective for a longer period of time, Dudu super controls larval and adult stages of chewing, biting and sucking insect pests like leaf miners, loppers, caterpillars, white flies and other insect pests. It is used by mixing 20ml in 20 litres of water.
Until relations with Uganda froze and led to the closure of the border with Rwanda, the Rocket product was initially the most imported crop pest control chemical sourced from Uganda.
However, Dudu- Acelamectin from Tanzania has currently replaced rocket.