Policies, regulations, and standards for aflatoxins in Africa are at best inadequate and at worst absent. Any regulations and standards that do exist are often not enforced and they vary between countries, complicating regional and continental trade. At the global level standards tend to be designed to meet the interests of developed rather than developing countries.
Where aflatoxin regulations do exist in Africa, they do little to protect public health due to poor enforcement, especially in rural communities where food quality is rarely inspected formally. Africa needs comprehensive policies and regulations that set thresholds of tolerance acceptable to local contexts. These regulations should also facilitate affordable and accessible testing facilities, help to reduce contamination, and support alternative uses of contaminated foods.
In driving for enforceable policies to control aflatoxins in Africa, PACA has three main aims:
- To enhance policy analysis and formulation
- To facilitate policy advocacy
- To promote the development of, and compliance with, standards and regulations
Enhancing policy analysis and formulation
In order to identify gaps in aflatoxin policies and regulations, and encourage policy harmonisation, it is essential to develop a clear understanding of the current policy environment in Africa. To do this, PACA will firstly conduct scoping studies to understand the current policy landscape.
Leading on from the scoping studies, a gap analysis will enable PACA to identify policy gaps as a basis for policy reforms on aflatoxin control. To help make these reforms possible, PACA will improve access to the data and evidence required to inform National Environmental Health Action Plans, and other instruments relating to food and trade.
Based on the results of the gap analysis, PACA will encourage action to fill capacity gaps. The Partnership will advocate for embedding capacity development in policy projects and will organize policy training seminars and short courses for policy analysts, researchers and policy makers.
Facilitating policy advocacy
To date, policy discourse in Africa relating to aflatoxin control has been ad hoc, with limited follow up. To improve this situation, PACA will drive forward a range of measures to institutionalize policy dialogue through the broader Partnership Platform approach. Using ongoing policy forums at various levels, PACA aims to progressively transform Africa’s policy landscape. This will be achieved through sharing experiences, and learning from new evidence and case studies.
The policy forums will provide a means for public sector agencies to engage stakeholders and the research community. The forums are likely to use a combination of ‘hard’ platforms and ‘soft’ platforms.
As part of its ‘hard’ platform approach, PACA will organize workshops, conferences, and seminars such as a series of themed policy advocacy workshops. These workshops will tie in with existing events that bring together a cross section of stakeholders from the research, agriculture, food trade and public sectors.
As part of its ‘soft’ platform approach, PACA will use websites, electronic interactive sessions, radio programmes and other means to encourage and facilitate policy dialogues. These will be based on emerging evidence from policy analyses and from results gained through PACA’s work generating research to prevent and control aflatoxins.
Promoting standards and regulations
In the short to medium term, the greatest market opportunity for African smallholder farmers lies in a rising demand for quality produce by a growing urban consumer population. This population is increasingly aware about food quality and safety standards. This means that, to maintain and increase domestic sales, food producers and handlers must adhere to international standards for aflatoxin control.
But, as standards and regulations are established, they could represent major barriers for farmers who are unable to comply with them. One of PACA’s key aims, therefore, is to ensure that standards and regulations to control aflatoxin help rather than hinder African food production and trade.
One way of achieving this is to ensure that stakeholders along the value chain, such as farmers, processors and retailers, are involved in the process of setting domestic standards and regulations. In this way, stakeholders can both influence the outcome of the standard setting procedure and gain understanding on the benefits of compliance.
To make sure Africa’s voice is heard in the global arena, PACA will strengthen the capacity of African institutions to participate in international processes for setting standards. And within Africa, PACA will work to harmonize standards for aflatoxin control across regional economic communities. The Partnership will also encourage efforts to build the capacity of individual countries to implement standards and monitor compliance.