July 14, 2008

DDT to fight malaria finally used / President launches the world's first sisal-to-power plant

Tanzania has started using Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) for Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) from July this year. It will be the first East African country to start using the insecticide which is credited with eliminating malaria in the Western world decades ago before it was outlawed in many countries in 1972. Critics said it was harmful for the environment and humans.

The Deputy Minister for Health and Social Welfare Aisha Kigoda said that in the first phase, the DDT will be sprayed in districts facing acute malaria threat. Dr Kigoda said spraying of the insecticide will be supervised by the National Environment Management Council (NEMC) and the Vice President's Office (Environmental management) to ensure there is no environmental damage. "NEMC and the Vice President's office will issue procedures for DDT use and analyse its environmental effects before we can start using it, according to Environmental Act of 2004," she said. The minister said that before the use of the insecticide, there would be a campaign to educate the public on its use.

Tanzania's decision comes as Kenya and Uganda are reluctant to use the insecticide as a final tool to drive off the disease. The two countries are wary of the consequences DDT use on international trade, ostensibly due to the sensitivity of their major trading partner - the European Union. Experts say that DDT, if used correctly, poses no known risk to human health. Malaria is a preventable disease that causes more than 1 million deaths in infants and children under age 5 in sub-Saharan Africa - one approximately every 30 seconds.

"There is no ban on DDT for vector control, rather, countries are to do their best to gradually phase it out and can apply (and receive) exemptions," said an official of the United Nations Environment Programme's Information Unit for Conventions (UNEP/IUC) recently.

Recently, it was agreed at a meeting of the "Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants held in Geneva that governments should adopt a reporting system under which "countries in need of using DDT for vector control can report on current uses and on future needs. Subsequent to DDT elimination, a provision of financial and technical support for adopting alternatives such as bed nets, integrated pest management and other chemicals will be mandatory.

But key players in the horticulture sector in Kenya and Tanzania see DDT as a serious threat to flower exports. Both want their respective governments to think of an "alternative method."
Recent reports indicate that US officials are endorsing and funding the use of DDT in sub-Saharan Africa after years of resisting calls from scientists who said the insecticide would be the best weapon for fighting malaria, despite objections by some environmentalists.

In the meantime, President Jakaya Kikwete has inaugurated the world's first plant producing electricity from sisal waste. He urged stakeholders in the sisal industry to continue to be creative as they sought solutions to the various challenges the sector was facing. "Challenges should not frustrate us, but should encourage us to be more creative in order to get solutions to challenges the sector is facing," he said after pressing a button to launch the plant.
President Kikwete told the large crowd at the function that the launch of the plant heralded the culmination of efforts made by the sisal industry to add value to the crop and contribute to efforts to solve the longstanding energy problem, which also affected the industry.
He added that the ceremony was testimony to the never-say-die spirit shown by the Katani Limited management.

"There are many people who prefer to get easy solutions, but very few are prepared to deal with a problem for 16 years," he said in reference to the number of year sit took the initiators of the project to finally attain the goal of producing electricity from sisal waste.
On problems besieging the industry, including a tax burden and lack of capital, the President promised that the Government would look into the problems with a view to helping the sector grow and contribute more to the economy. "I am not promising a waiver of taxes, but what I can tell you is that we will not ignore your complaints." On the availability of capital, he said the Government had introduced a special department at the Tanzania Investment Bank (TIB) that offered long-term credit to agriculture, pending the establishment of an agricultural bank.
"The introduction of the bank could take long, and that's why we have decided to introduce the a special desk at TIB. The Government is looking for funds to bolster the capacity of the new department," the President said. He also spoke of the problem of shortage of funds to conduct agricultural research, saying the Government had come up with a strategy to increase funding for the production of various crops, including sisal.

President Kikwete was responding to a request made by sisal stakeholders for an increase in funding for sisal research at Mlingano Agricultural Research Institute (ARI) in Muheza District. The President told local producers and manufacturers to refrain against seeking protection against imports, adding that the best way to remain competitive was to produce quality products. "Do seek unnecessary protection, as this only serves to increase inefficiency. Compete and you shall win," he said. Speaking at the ceremony, Katani Limited managing director Salum Shamte thanked the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido), Tanzania Automotive Technology Centre, the Government and other donors for their contribution towards the establishment of the plant.
The CFC managing director Ali Mchumo urged farmers to take advantage of the opportunity to add value to sisal. He said sisal production was being steadily revived following strenuous efforts made by various stakeholders in recent years. Mr Mchumo said sisal production had fallen from 230,000 tonnes per year in the 1960s to 21,000 tonnes, but had now risen to 32,000 tonnes annually. He expressed hope that the new plant would act as an incentive to producers, processors and traders. (The Citizen, Dar es Salaam/The East African, Nairobi)

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