Agricultural policies

Featured items

Mitigating the consequences of aflatoxin in Africa

What role for the private sector?

October 21, 2016

Aflatoxins are toxic substances, produced by fungi, which colonise maize, sorghum, groundnuts, millet, cassava and chilies among other commodities in Africa. The consequences of contamination are manifold and detrimental for human health, food security and trade. CTA and the African Union Commission - Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA) are currently seeking to engage the private sector and upscale viable solutions to tackle this complex challenge in African countries. 

Aflatoxins, foodborne toxins produced by moulds (Aspergillus species), hinder Africa's efforts at achieving food security, improving nutrition and attaining thriving agricultural-led economic growth. Ubiquitous across African countries, a 2015 study commissioned by CTA in conjunction with PACA and led by Professor Sheila Okoth, University of Nairobi, confirmed that these fungal metabolites pose major risks to human health and trade. Aflatoxins have been associated with stunting and kwashiorkor in children and liver cancer. They also hamper domestic, intra-regional and international trade; it is estimated that the continent loses € 400 – 600 million annually in export earnings due to aflatoxins.

Experts claim that this complex challenge can only be contained if multiple actors engage in coordinated effort aimed at mitigating the risks along the commodity value chains that are susceptible to aflatoxin contamination. Their concerted actions should be complemented by enabling policies and regulations, and backed up with adequate financial and human resources. A sound institutional framework (inclusive of well-equipped laboratories) is critical.

In recent years, the spotlight has turned on strengthening alliances with the private sector, particularly farmers' organisations and industry leaders. Given the high economic losses, they are seen as instrumental to providing leadership in the shared agenda for tackling aflatoxin contamination. Public-private-producer partnerships for aflatoxin control in Africa can make significant contributions to improving public health and nutrition, developing agro-industries and expanding trade opportunities.

In light of this, PACA and CTA have convened a roundtable side event on the margins of the 2nd PACA Partnership Platform meeting in Entebbe, Uganda on 11 October 2016. The meeting served to articulate a private sector engagement strategy and evaluation criteria for effective private sector-led aflatoxin mitigation. The Roundtable gathered over 35 participants, amongst which were CEOs and programme managers from groundnut, grain, chili, coffee producers, millers, traders and processors, input and equipment suppliers, technical and financial service providers, and development partners from across African and beyond. Representatives from AFRI-Nut - Malawi, Cereal Millers' Association - Kenya, CTA, GrainPro – East Africa, Meds For Kids - Haiti, Nestlé – West Africa, PACA, USAID, Women's organisations in Uganda and Zimbabwe, were in attendance, amongst others.

There were seven catalytic interventions featuring success stories from the private sector and the enabling environment, which demonstrated how the private sector has been dealing with the aflatoxin challenge.

MFK's model – one of CTA's Top 20 Innovations – was presented at the meeting as one successful example. The model promotes the use of appropriate control strategies throughout the entire value chain in Haiti. MFK's model supports smallholders to control aflatoxin contamination through training, collaborative research and price incentives. As a result, farmers have been able to access credit and increase yields by 30% and farm incomes by 100%. Since 2012, a private company, Acceso Peanut Enterprise, has expanded the model to new regions of Haiti, opening up new markets to more farmers. Nestlé also shared their experience in West Africa in reducing rejection rates from 50% in 2007 to 4% by 2013 and getting farmers to meet their stringent acceptable limits of total aflatoxins of 4 µg/kg of maize.

During the side event, some of the private sector-led initiatives to contain aflatoxins that had resulted in achieving growth in market share, and meeting consumer demands while increasing brand and quality recognition were:
• Self–regulation and the adoption of internal standards, which are, in some cases, stricter than national and international norms;
• Private sector-driven model: provision of input credits and higher prices for quality produce to farmers;
• Adoption of a farm to fork approach (train and support and test through the chain) -train farmers in good agricultural practices e.g. using farmer field school methodology and conduct aflatoxin testing on site (Romer Agrastrip, Mobile Assay, traceability protocol);
• Establishing joint ventures with major research facilities (e.g. BeCA-ILRI Hub, PMIL, universities for compliance testing, sampling; APTECA for proficiency testing;)
• Forming alliances with other private sector actors and producer groups;
• Investing in capacity building of staff and infrastructural development.

Francis MuseveniThe President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni (right), and Judith A. Francis, CTA Senior Programme Coordinator, Science and Technology Policy (left) at the 2nd PACA Partnership Platform Meeting in Entebbe, Uganda.The following priority actions were compiled at the side event and were conveyed to the plenary session of the PACA Partnership Platform Meeting on 13th October as key elements of a private sector engagement strategy:

• Mobilize matching grant schemes for increasing access to technologies and services to support innovation
• Build alliances with consumer groups to create awareness and demand for safe quality foods without creating panic
• Build alliances with farmer groups/associations/cooperatives for scaling-up the adoption of GAP and collective sourcing, as incentives for premium prices
• Lobby government for incentives to support innovation in the food and feed value chains and updating and improving implementation of aflatoxin regulation governing the informal and commercial sectors.

CTA will continue to partner with PACA and other key African and international partners in the continued effort to control aflatoxin contamination in Africa, particularly to accelerate concrete collaboration with the private sector for improved agricultural production, agri-business and trade and health and nutrition. In the upcoming weeks, CTA and PACA will release the joint report of the 2015 study on "Improving the Evidence Base on Aflatoxin Contamination and Exposure in Africa: Strengthening the Agriculture Nutrition Nexus".

Find out more

Download the final report of the side event
Presentation: Overview of Aflatoxin Actions Across Africa
Read the Aflatoxin Partnership Newsletter (Aug-Oct 2016)
Visit the website of the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa
Article on New Vision Uganda 'AU experts, African leaders meeting in Entebbe over aflatoxin mitigation'
Learn more about 'Providing safe maize for Africa: Aflatoxin Proficiency Testing and Control in Africa project at the BecA-ILRI Hub'
Spore article: 'Aflatoxin Control: Saving lives and livelihoods in Haiti'
Learn more about the MFK model
Download the meeting's concept note