Scientists from 13 African countries have agreed to use a biological product to fight aflatoxins in cereals.
At a workshop in Dar es Salaam this week, the experts discussed progress of Aflasafe, a biological control product capable of reducing the deadly poison by 80-99 per cent in treated cereals.
According to Senior Plant Pathologist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Nigeria, Dr Ranajit Bandyopadhyay, participants discussed the current status of development of Aflasafe in different countries.
“The results of what we discussed was a collective understanding of the needs for future developments in biocontrol in Africa,” said Dr Bandyopadhyay, who is also team leader for Aflasafe projects.
The biological method of controlling aflatoxins was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Services and implemented in Africa by the tropical institute and other national and regional organisations.
Using native strains of A. flavus that do not produce aflatoxins but are able to displace their aflatoxin-producing counterparts, it reduces aflatoxin infection in crops and in the environment.
SIMPLE AND SAFE PROTECTION
“Biological control products like Aflasafe give the farmers a simple safe method of protecting their crops from aflatoxins while in the farm and when stored, saving them the expenses of aflatoxin contamination,” said the developer, Prof Peter Cotty, who is also a research plant pathologist.
Aflatoxins are toxic chemicals, usually produced by fungi in food crops, causing cancer and liver diseases.
They also diminish the body’s immune system, retard children’s growth and may lead to death in extreme cases.
Aflatoxin contamination is a major problem globally, causing losses of about $1.2bn, $450m of that amount emanating from Africa economies.
It significantly hampers efforts of food supply and rural poverty reduction in the continent, causing economic losses and major fatalities in the region.
This month, Kenya announced that 400,000 bags of maize in its strategic reserves had been contaminated, therefore unsafe for consumption while Tanzania reported nine deaths from aflatoxin poisoning.
The workshop brought together 50 participants including farmers and policy makers.