First Quarter 2017

The following newsletter provides regular quarterly updates on the European Commission funded programme on Capacity building related to multilateral environment agreements in African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries (the ACP MEAs Programme). With a focus on institutional and national capacity building as well as a synergistic implementation of the MEAs clusters, the programme aims to reduce the adverse effects of loss of biodiversity and contribute to the sound management of chemicals, including the adequate disposal of waste and obsolete pesticides. The programme has brought together the concerted efforts of regional hubs including the Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM, Caribbean Hub), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP, Pacific Hub), and the African Union Commission (AUC, Africa Hub) as well as global partners such as the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), along with select NGOs and collaborating centers.

In the first three months of 2017, there was a greater impetus on pesticides and waste management through capacity building workshops in collaboration with FAO and other partners in the Caribbean and the Pacific as well as support lent to the development of sound integrated environmental policies at the national level in a few African countries. We provide below a snapshot of a few activities that were implemented during the first quarter.

Building synergies between agrochemicals and agro-ecosystems management for effective conservation of biodiversity resources

Agriculture is recognized as the key driver of natural ecosystems degradation (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Worldwide, this trend has been increasing, including due to a global shift towards a more industrial paradigm of agricultural production. These are often based on cultivation of single crops (monocultures) and rely heavily on external inputs such as water and agro-chemicals.

This paradigm is not sustainable. Production through monocultures directly depletes biodiversity below- and above-ground, for example, by offering fewer habitats for beneficial insects and by reducing soils’ capacity to absorb nutrients and support microorganisms that contribute to their fertility. By doing so, it reduces the support that agro-ecosystem services – the benefits that people receive from nature in agricultural systems, which include soil fertility, pollination services, and ecological management of pests and weeds – can give to production. An agro-ecosystem that is degraded and poor in biodiversity resources is not able to effectively support agro-ecosystem services. This translates into reduced capacity to sustain production of healthy crops.

Over the past decades, the response to reduced yield due to agro-ecosystems degradation has often been an increased recourse to external inputs and particularly agrochemicals – pesticides and herbicides. These, however, are often misused – applied in excessive quantities and indiscriminately, even when there is no genuine need. As a result, beneficial organisms are also removed from the system, and soil and water resources are degraded further, in a cycle that leads to lower – rather than improved – agricultural production and increased pressure on natural ecosystems.

Different approaches that build on rather than deplete ecosystems – and by doing so conserve and enhance biodiversity in agricultural areas – exist and have been successfully practiced and documented in several regions of the world. Implementing on-farm and landscape measures to increase biodiversity in production systems has the potential to sustain, or even increase productivity, while at the same time minimizing environmental damage from overuse of agrochemicals.

The bottom line is that ecosystem services and biodiversity are crucial to increasing agricultural production sustainably, that is to delivering better outcomes for food and nutrition security while minimizing environmental impacts. Ecosystem approaches to farming recognize that agricultural and food systems can be designed to build on rather than deplete agro-ecosystem services.

In this context, existing Multilateral Environmental Agreement (MEAs) targeting agrochemicals and biodiversity – the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions on pesticides and wastes management and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – as well as regional and national instruments such as National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) – represent excellent tools to mainstream sustainable approaches to farming. Building on synergies between the two realms of agrochemicals and biodiversity management is a win-win situation. Recognizing the role of farming in the protection of natural ecosystems and biodiversity and of biodiversity to sustain agricultural production in national policies and on the ground implementation is vital.

In consideration of existing gaps in knowledge and capacity to implement these MEAs in the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries – under the ACP MEAs Programme – FAO in collaboration with the Secretariat of the CBD has been supporting the preparation of guidance materials for policymakers in ACP countries on how to mainstream approaches to agriculture that building on agro-biodiversity and ecosystem services, reduce the overuse of agrochemicals. By providing guidance on how to support this process of mainstreaming, the programme supports capacity-building of national stakeholders that work on key environmental and agricultural policies – such as the NBSAPs and Agriculture Sector Plans (ASPs).

Example of activities to date include the production of Technical Guidance Documents on Mainstreaming ecosystem services and biodiversity into agricultural production and management in East Africa and in the Pacific Islands for use at national training workshops targeting staff at Ministries of Environment and Agriculture in Kenya – to provide input on agro-biodiversity for the country’s revised NBSAP – and in Samoa – to discuss implementation strategies for the country’s latest NBSAP.

By David Colozza (David.Colozza@fao.org), FAO

Africa Hub

Supporting development of environmental policies at the national level

In Togo, the Hub has recently partnered with the Ministry of Environment to develop an Integrated Environmental Policy, which will further strengthen the country’s commitment to protecting the environment through policy mechanisms.

In Liberia and Burkina Faso, the Hub is supporting the development of legislative and regulatory framework strategy for the sound management of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs are organic chemical substances, which possess a particular combination of physical and chemical properties such that, once released into the environment, can be toxic to both humans and wildlife. The strategies – being developed by Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia and the Ministry of Environment, Green Economy and Climate Change in Burkina Faso – are expected to be completed by June 2017.

Some upcoming activities of the African Hub include a workshop on enforcement and compliance for biodiversity cluster MEAs, specifically CITES and CMS with a focus on elephant protection under the Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE)/Elephant Trust Fund to be held in end of April 2017 in Arusha, Tanzania as well as a workshop for Member States to promote ratification of the Nagoya and Kuala Lumpur Protocols to be held in May 2017 in Lome, Togo.

The African Hub also provided support to the African Union (AU) Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture, AU Legal office and the AU Chairperson Office to draft annexes to the AU Maritime charter on safety and security and development. Seen here are participants from the validation workshop held in Addis Ababa.

Caribbean Hub

Tackling pesticides by training inspectors and customs officials on imported pesticides

In order to better manage and control imported pesticides, the Caribbean Hub organized a regional training workshop to equip the key players - pesticides inspectors and customs officers – with better knowledge and skills on this issue. Through the workshop, the participants gained a better understanding of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions (BRS Conventions) and their role in pesticides management and controlled importation. The training took place with a focus on teacher training – a successful method of capacity building in Caribbean Hub – which enables participants to carry forward the knowledge and train others at the national level.

Participants engaged in group work sessions at the workshop

The workshop also proved to be a platform for enhancing synergies and collaboration as it promoted national level cooperation between customs authorities and the pesticides inspectorate of various countries.

Held in Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia from March 15 to 17, 2017, the workshop was attended by 25 participants from 11 Caribbean ACP countries. It also served as a key example of institutional partnerships under the ACP MEAs 2 programme as it was a joint initiative between CARICOM and FAO. On the FAO side, the workshop was also supported by the GEF project for Disposal of Obsolete Pesticides including Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), Promotion of Alternatives and Strengthening Pesticides Management in the Caribbean.

Group photo of the participants at the workshop in St. Lucia

Participants evaluated the workshop highly, giving it an average score of 4.7 out of 5 in the post-workshop evaluation. They indicated that it substantially increased their understanding of key topics such as pesticides inspection, incident investigation, the BRS Conventions, and the roles of customs and pesticides inspectors in pesticides management. They assessed the workshop as being highly relevant to their jobs. Within two weeks of the workshop, the organizers received information from participants about seizures of illegal pesticides in two countries, showing that the knowledge gained at the workshop was immediately being put to effective use.

Pacific Hub

Promoting the environmentally sound management of hazardous waste and other waste in the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI)

Transboundary movements of hazardous and other wastes has been a global issue with human health and the environment bearing the brunt of its adverse impacts. A number of multilateral environment agreements, most notably the Basel Convention, have created a framework at the international level to control and manage the movement of such waste. At the regional level, the Waigani Convention, similar to the Basel Covention, aims to ban the importation into Forum Island Countries of hazardous and radioactive Wastes and to control the trans-boundary movement and management of hazardous wastes within the South Pacific region.

The ACP MEAs Programme, thus, funded the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) – a non-Waigani Convention member – to attend the Sixth Meeting of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC 6) for the Waigani Convention which was held on 20-21 February, 2017 in Nuku’alofa, Tonga. Recently, RMI has made great strides in increasing their commitments to waste management by introducing innovative waste management initiatives such as the Used Lead Acid Battery (ULAB) buy-back scheme, signing the first ever Basel Permit for the export of lead acid batteries for the country, mobilizing and raising awareness for sound waste management among the youth, to name just a few.

Participating at STAC 6 – a regional intergovernmental platforms for the Waigani Convention – not only enables regional-level collaboration but brings countries a step closer towards turning the tide on the fight against hazardous and other waste.

Republic of Marshall Islands delegate presenting their State of the Environment Report, a key area of support provided by the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) under the ACP MEAs Programme.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Harmonizing pesticides regulations across member countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)

In collaboration with the SADC, FAO organized a workshop in Pretoria South Africa, 21-23, March 2017 to review regional guidelines on pesticides use in SADC countries released in 2011, and to prepare a roadmap to publish revised guidelines by 2018. The main recommendation from the workshop was to develop the revised guidelines as a legally binding text to be incorporated as an Appendix into the SADC Protocol on Trade. The document will include both normative provisions that set standards for SADC member states, and operational provisions that will institute regional mechanisms and procedures. It will cover several topics as identified during the meeting, including: international instruments, legislation, registration, licensing, classification and labelling, HHPs, storage, transport and disposal and advertising.

The instrument will be finalized by September 2018 or 2019 according to the roadmap developed at the workshop. A key milestone is the presentation for review by the SADC Sectoral Committee of Ministers of Trade in April-June 2018.

A number of workshops took place in Trinidad and Tobago on pesticide registration and regulation harmonization:

  • Training on the Pesticide Registration Toolkit - 28 participants, including from the Ministries of Environment and of Health of Caribbean countries attended the workshop from 7-11 February, 2017.
  • Workshop on “Development of Harmonized Systems for Pesticide Registration” - 20 participants, including national pesticide registrars and representatives from Ministries of Agriculture in the region attended the workshop which was held from 13-15 February, 2017. The objective of the workshop was to find ways for countries in the region to collaborate on registration and related information sharing. An action plan for further collaboration was developed. This covers nine points: advocacy, information exchange, bio-pesticides registration, pesticide labelling, Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs), pesticide laboratories, Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs), post-registration monitoring, evaluation and reviews, Rotterdam Convention.
Participants at the training on the Pesticide Registration Toolkit from 7-11 February, 2017 in Trinidad & Tobago
Second Project Steering Committee meeting of the FAO-GEF project on disposal of obsolete pesticides was also held in Trinidad & Tobago

Following the recommendations of the Conference of Parties for the Convention on Biological Diversity that was held in Cancun, Mexico in December 2016, a road map a roadmap on future activities under the remaining 12 months of implementation of the project – and beyond – will be developed in April 2017. Through the sessions the key role of the partnership between FAO and the CBD in promoting mainstreaming of agro-ecosystem services and biodiversity was highlighted, especially at the side event on agro-biodiversity in agriculture where the Pacific Technical Guidance Document was launched under the ACP MEAs Programme.

The event was organized in collaboration with the Secretariat of the CBD at the Rio Convention Pavilion and was a key opportunity to highlight work done under the Programme in front of a global audience, and to elicit feedback from participants on the work. The publication for the Pacific Islands, and the work it is supporting in the region (particularly the implementation of the revised NBSAP for Samoa) were well-received and set the basis for discussions on future collaboration with the Secretariat of the CBD.

The ACP MEAs is a joint EU-UNEP partnership project. This newsletter has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the views, policies or official opinion of the European Commission, UN Environment or contributing organizations. For more information on ACP MEAs please contact: Mr. Mamadou Kane (Mamadou.Kane@unep.org), Ms. Anjana Varma (anjana.varma@unep.org)

Created By
Anjana Varma


Cover Photo: FAO copyright, African Hub: Photo sourced from Unsplash Caribbean Hub: Photo sourced from StockSnap Pacific Hub: Mae Ryan for the Guardian; FAO background: http://undergroundhealthreporter.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/spraying-weed_medium.jpg

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