Agriculture is critically important for African societies and economies but ensuring food security for Africa’s growing population is a major challenge. One particular concern are pesticides called ‘neonicotinoids’, which render all parts of a plant toxic to all insects and contaminate the soil and water bodies. By exposing all organisms to the toxins, neonicotinoids also harm beneficial insects that provide many important ‘ecosystem services’, such as pollination, soil development, and natural pest control, which are an integral part of sustainable agriculture. Neonicotinoids have contributed to the loss of ecosystem services from pollinators and other insects in Europe and elsewhere, and several of them have been banned in the (European Union) EU and other countries due to their harmful effect on beneficial insects. Africa, with its rich biodiversity and heavy reliance on agricultural production, is one of the fastest-growing pesticide markets in the world, so protecting it from the harmful effects of neonicotinoids is vital to ensuring a sustainable agriculture that provides food security.
The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), in collaboration with the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC) has recently completed a project exploring the use and effects of neonicotinoids in African agriculture. This project brought together experts from 17 African countries, reviewed the relevant African scientific literature, and analysed the state of knowledge on neonicotinoids and their impact on ecosystem services for agriculture and on biodiversity in Africa.
The resultant report ‘Neonicotinoid insecticides: use and effects in African agriculture. A review and recommendations to policy makers’ (NASAC, 2019) has collated an unprecedented amount of information, identified gaps in scientific knowledge and research relating to neonicotinoids in Africa, and developed key recommendations from science to policy-makers to ensure the sustainability of African agriculture and thus food security. One year after the launch of the NASAC report, the purpose of this virtual event was to introduce the report, including an update on recent global scientific and African policy developments regarding neonicotinoids, and to discuss its implications with a wide range of stakeholders, with the aim of stimulating policy and research action on this important issue. The target audience and participants included South African and Southern African Development Community (SADC) policymakers, regulatory agencies, government departments, agricultural associations, extension-service providers, research institutes, international development agencies, representatives of embassies, and other interested stakeholders.