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1991).  Kenyan farmers use more than 300,000 metric tons of fertilizers and 7,000 tons of pesticides per year.  Metal-based compounds, particularly copper oxychloride, used as a fungicide, and manganese compounds, are used commonly in Kenya, especially in Rift Valley farm lands where copper is missing from soils (Gitonga 1991).  An article recently appeared pointing to massive die-offs of flamingoes in Rift Valley lakes from metal poisoning, which may have derived from a battery plant as well.  

Added to this mix is a fairly new engine of economic growth, the horticultural export industry.  Horticultural exports are estimated to occupy about 50 square miles of high-potential agricultural land in Kenya, where intensive methods are used to produce flowers, vegetables, and some fruit for European markets.  Environmental concerns include pollution and water use.  Pollution derives from pesticides, fertilizers, and plastic ground-covers.  According to one export company, Homegrown Inc., herbicides are not a problem as weeds are controlled by hand (Labuschagne 2000).  Kenya's export associations, in particular the Kenya Flower Council and Kenya Producers of Export Agricultural Products, have developed guidelines to minimize the abuse of pesticides.  Homegrown, Inc. also notes that its water use is strictly minimized – 80 percent of its farms use drip irrigation and a tool called the neutron probe to fine-tune level of water released.  

Horticulture is raising environmental – and some social – issues nevertheless.  Export producers are known to use several carcinogenic and/or environmentally damaging chemicals that are banned in some western nations, including Carbosulfan 25EC and especially methyl bromide (Kweyuh 1994; PAN 1995).  Residents in horticultural production areas report salinization problems and a chemical taste in the water when runoff is occurring upstream of them.  Poverty and gender biases are also increasing in areas subject to agricultural intensification through horticultural export.  As products are commercialized and begin to bring in significantly larger amounts of cash to farm families, men are taking over the decision-making roles from women.  One example cited was that in an extensive study comparing local activities over a two-decade span, in 1975-76, village meetings to discuss agriculture-wildlife-people interactions drew many women; in 1995-96, men had replaced the women almost entirely (Campbell/LUCID 1999).

5.2.4. Access to water, safe water supplies, and environmental health.

Competition for water resources, safe supplies, and health issues related to water quality are increasingly important in Kenya.  For example, the 1996 LUCID study in the Amboseli – Tsavo area found that both wildlife and poor farmers are facing increasing difficulty accessing water sources they have long used.  This is increasingly true in drylands as well as in the wetter montane regions.  Kenya government policy dictates that potable water should be within 4 km of every homestead by year 2000.  Although government and donor programs have tried to provide water in outlying arid lands, abandonment rates of boreholes in areas of northern and eastern Kenya is high – 21.9 percent – as sedimentary rock does not hold water well (Keter 1991).

Rural environmental health issues – those related to water – include access to clean drinking water; access to safe sanitation and sewage disposal; indoor air pollution; and prevention of vector-borne disease, such as malaria (which increases when land is cleared and water is found in standing pools).  Water transports pathogens and water-borne disease is a major factor in illness rates.  Malarial mosquitoes can be a problem in the irrigation schemes, especially Mwea and Tabere (Mavuti 1991).  Bilharzia is also prevalent – in irrigation areas in particular – due to snail infestations.   

Occasionally, the definition of water-health issues is broadened to include water pollution from agricultural sedimentation or from fertilizer and pesticide runoff or contamination.  All rural inhabitants are made more vulnerable to illness and disease when water quality is degraded, and a notable cause of water quality degradation in Kenya is land conversion from forest, shrub, or bush cover to agricultural purposes.  Negative environmental health conditions particularly impact the health of infants and children and contribute to the diseases, diarrheal diseases in particular, to which they are subject.  The infant mortality rate for Kenya is 62 deaths per 1,000 births

Kara PagePage 1710/23/2006

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