Agriculture makes up a huge part of Kenya’s economy and culture – which is no surprise considering the abundance of fresh products available at open air markets and grocery stores across the country.
Unfortunately, when you dish up that beautiful produce, you may be unintentionally serving something other than delicious flavour and healthy nutrients. While many of the studies on pesticides in Kenya have focused on water and soil contamination, those that have tested for residue on fruits and vegetables are worrying.
The use of pesticides and agricultural practices in general are less regulated here, leading to approved materials being used improperly and necessary resources being diverted from contaminated sources.
Because of this, there may be a range of troubling contaminants in your produce, including:
Pesticides used in Kenya have been approved for agricultural use, but when people are chronically exposed to them at high levels through ingestion, there can be side effects. These include liver, kidney and nervous system damage in severe cases.
Heavy metals, such as lead, have been detected in Kenyan produce, possibly due to contaminated soil or the use of industrial wastewater for irrigation. With prolonged exposure, these metals can build up in human livers and kidneys, potentially affecting those organs as well as the cardiovascular, nervous and skeletal systems.
It’s unclear when contamination occurs, but many fruits and vegetables are laced with disease-causing viruses, bacteria and fungi. This could be due to improper fertiliser use – as animal manure, which is commonly used, is often not dried or treated – or due to transportation on open trucks. Also, contaminated water might be used to keep produce looking fresh.
Limiting exposure to these contaminants can be difficult, but you definitely have options. Firstly, you can limit your exposure to pesticide residues by buying your produce from a certified organic farmer, as they cannot use synthetic pesticides. Also, buying directly from farmers gives you the chance to ask about their practices, including where they source their water from and what sort of fertilisers they use.
Visit the Organic Farmers’ Market, which runs every Saturday from 9am to 3pm at Purdy Arms in Karen, to meet some passionate organic farmers and learn more about their methods and the organic lifestyle.
:: This article is original content for Organic Farmer’s Market created by MagicBox