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Regional workshop on “Revamping the groundnut value chain of West Africa through aflatoxin mitigation”, 01-02 September 2015

In most West African countries, groundnut is an important crop used in various forms. It is a basic food and cash crop. Its production, processing, and trade are major sources of employment, income and foreign exchange in many West African countries. Unfortunately, since the 1960s, groundnut production and trade have been declining due to various factors; aflatoxin contamination being an important cause of this decline. Many countries in the region would unleash their groundnut sector’s potential if they could effectively tackle the aflatoxin menace. In an attempt to address the problem faced by West African states and bringing potential solutions, PACA organized a workshop on “Revamping the groundnut value chain of West Africa through aflatoxin mitigation”.

The objectives of the workshop were to:

  1. Share perspectives on the state of the aflatoxin challenge in groundnut value chains in West Africa and opportunities for intervention
  2. Discuss the current policy landscape of West African States in relation to aflatoxin control, food safety as well as trade and identify actions to address gaps
  3. Discuss current technological practices for aflatoxin prevention and control and explore new options
  4. Review and validate the ECOWAS Aflatoxin Control Action Plan as a step towards facilitating adoption in the region  
  5. Identify new, and strengthen existing partnership opportunities among national, regional and international stakeholders in aflatoxin management and agree on strategies for mobilizing required investments to support priority activities.

The workshop was held in Dakar, Senegal from 01-02 September 2015. The workshop was jointly organized by PACA Secretariat, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Pan African Agribusiness and Agro-Industry Consortium, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, United States Agency for International Development, West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF), the Government of Senegal and other partners.

The workshop summary is available (EnglishFrench). The following workshop materials are also available:

Watch PAEPARD interviews with participants: Dr. Janet Edeme, Head Rural Economy Divison, African Union Commission, and Papa Ousseynou SANE, C.E.O Snambel Production et Distribution.

Malawi Farmers Association Working with Farmers to Control Aflatoxin

The National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM), in collaboration with the private sector and other stakeholders, has been taking the lead in promoting interventions for aflatoxin mitigation in Malawi. Understanding that aflatoxin mitigation starts at the farm level, NASFAM promotes best agricultural practices at pre-harvest, harvest and post-harvest levels. NASFAM is also engaged in creating aflatoxin awareness and training to smallholder farmers as well as development of traceability systems, quality management, storage and processing. Although peanut production in Malawi has been growing over the last few years, post-harvest technologies such as shelling and storage are not readily available. Smallholder farmers are forced to shell the nuts by hand. In order to make the shelling by hand easier, famers soak the unshelled nuts in water which increases moisture level in the nuts resulting in possible aflatoxin contamination. In light of this, NASFAM has taken the initiative to provide mechanical shelling technologies to farmers. This initiave is still in progress and adoption levels are minimal. In addition, NASFAM’s new traceability and quality management system ensures that each bag containing groundnuts and accepted at a buying point undergoes quality checks and has a traceability tag thatlinks it back to the farmer. NASFAM is also providing services and training to smallholder farmers on drying systems, moisture detection as well as sampling and testing at different levels. NASFAM continues to work with farmers to mitigate the aflatoxin risk and its impact on the livelihoods of the Malawian population.

The effects of aflatoxins on animals

Aflatoxins, highly toxic compounds produced by species of Aspergillus Flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus, are known carcinogens that are also associated with immunosuppression, stunting, and retardation in humans. These toxic compounds not only affect humans through consumption of contaminated food but also affect livestock. Dr. Oladele Dotun, a Veterinarian at the Animal Care Laboratory in Nigeria, presented his laboratory’s findings on the effects of aflatoxins on animals during the ECOWAS workshop in Accra, Ghana. According to Dr. Oladele, research has shown that aflatoxins cause infertility, abortions, and delayed onset of egg production in birds as well as sudden losses in egg production in actively laying birds. Furthermore, loss of appetite, skin discoloration or even yellowish pigmentation on skin can be observed in fish. Dr. Oladele emphasized the negative impact and massive losses encountered by farmers due to mortalities, egg production losses, delayed weight gain in birds and fish. In order to reduce the impact of aflatoxins on humans and animals, Dr. Oladele recommends that producers should ensure minimal contamination with toxigenic strains at pre- and post-harvest levels by applying a biocontrol product: Aflasafe®. Aflasafe® reduces aflatoxins significantly. Dr. Oladele also recommends training of farmers on proper drying methods as well as good farming practices.

PACA Presents at the Global Forum for Innovations: Middle East and Africa Focus

On February 02-05, 2014, the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) convened a high level meeting in Abu Dhabi, UAE on revolutionizing global agriculture through innovations. GFIA is a global forum where agricultural innovators, business leaders and other stakeholders are brought together to exchange ideas on finding solutions to feeding the world in a sustainable manner. The conference was attended by more than 3,200 participants from over 62 countries including 20 government delegations. The conference had 150 speakers with more than 100 exhibitors worldwide. HE Rashid bin Fahad, UAE Minister of Environment and Water, inaugurated GFIA with a welcome address on behalf of HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE, Minister of Presidential Affairs, and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority. The conference was attended by key individuals such as the CEO of the CGIAR Consortium who, in a keynote speech, expressed the reality that aflatoxin is costing African farmers over $450 million USD per year in lost exports. He emphasized the importance of employing technologies with great potential for reducing aflatoxin contamination such as aflasafe. This technology, which has the capacity to reduce aflatoxin contamination by up to 90 percent, has been developed by CGIAR and is being made available to farmers. Furthermore, during a panel discussion on “Africa: the Frontier for Arid Farming”, the Director General of International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) reiterated the importance of recognizing aflatoxin as a major problem. He also emphasized the important role for resistant varieties and agronomic practices in helping the groundnut sector of some African countries to revive and resume exporting the crop to bigger markets. Dr. Amare Ayalew, Program Manager for the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA), was invited to GFIA as a speaker where he presented PACA and how it is waging war against aflatoxins in Africa. He also highlighted the aflatoxin challenge in Africa and PACA’s approaches to addressing this vexing problem and to promoting innovations. Read more about PACA’s presentation on WEBSITE

Malawi Programme for Aflatoxin Control (MAPAC)

The Malawi Programme for Aflatoxin Control (MAPAC) is a new initiative of Malawi which aims at improving the health and livelihood of its people by effectively managing and controlling aflatoxin in its staple crops such as maize and groundnuts. Through the use of research, introduction of good practices, development of testing capacities in laboratories, and pushing for good policies, MAPAC tries to develop Malawi’s capacity to effectively control and reduce aflatoxin contamination in the key value chains. Malawi has established a Bureau of Standards (MBS) which is responsible for providing testing of locally manufactured and imported commodities. Tested commodities that have achieved compliance with the requirements of the Bureau will receive a seal. Although in recent years its credibility has decreased, MBS provides testing services to groundnut exporters in the country. A second laboratory has also been established as a national reference laboratory for mycotoxin analysis at the Chitedze Agricultural Research Station (CARS). This lab is recognized for providing reliable aflatoxin testing to processors and exporters in the country. MAPAC further tries to strengthen the sampling and testing capacities that already exist as well as strengthening the policy frameworks in place. MAPAC is an initiative fully aligned with global, continental, regional and sub-regional strategic priorities such as that of the Partnership for aflatoxin Control in Africa.