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Effective policies key to fighting aflatoxin in Africa

Updated: 2016-06-15 18:34
By Lucie Morangi (chinadaily.com.cn)

Sub-Saharan Africa records up to 40 percent food wastage every year due to aflatoxin contamination in grains. This continues to pose a serious threat to the continent's food security unless effective policies are developed by governments to improve post-harvest activities.

According to Betty Kibaara, associate director, Rockefeller Foundation in Kenya, challenges such as lack of modern but affordable technologies and awareness among the rural population is behind the losses.

"We have innovative adaptation in grain storage such as improved silo bags. But if small scale farmers are not aware of this, the continent will continue facing serious food shortages at a time its population is steadily increasing," she said during the first Africa Strategic Grain Reserve conference opened in Nairobi on Tuesday.

The two day conference, sponsored by the African Union's Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA), aims at providing safe storage solutions for national grain reserve agencies, while bringing together the ecosystems that supports them. These includes small holder farmers, grain traders, government ministries, researchers, funders and international organizations.

Kibaara called for effective government policies to spur innovative technologies that would scale up strategic national reserves thus boosting food security.

This year the United Nations declared that halving food loss by 2030 is a key sustainable development goal.

"4.5 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are exposed to Aflatoxin contamination in their daily diet. Poor harvesting and storage mechanisms promote this malady that is preventable," said Willy Bett, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.

He said the government is increasing awareness among farmers while at the same time carrying out frequent aflatoxin tests in national grain storage facilities.

Aflatoxin is produced by a fungus that commonly grows on grain. Research has proven that high levels of the toxin may lead to cancer and stunting in children’s growth. The poison is regularly found in improperly stored commodities such as maize, cassava, millet, rice, sorghum and wheat.

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