Experts meet in Dar to intensify war on aflatoxins

03Sep 2018
Crispin Gerald
The Guardian
Experts meet in Dar to intensify war on aflatoxins

TANZANIA will make headway in battle against cancer-causing aflatoxins as stakeholders meet to plan commercialisation of effective, all-natural control technology—Aflasafe TZ.

A press statement issued by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) said that Tanzania will soon join other countries in Africa in rolling out the technology which is effective for reducing contamination of foods and feeds by the cancer-causing, poisonous aflatoxins.

The aim is to make them safe for human and livestock consumption and to meet standards for export.

IITA and the partners have organised an investor’s forum to share the findings with stakeholders and to discuss the business opportunities available in the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of Aflasafe in the country, which kicks off today in Dar es Salaam.

The meeting brings together private sector players, policymakers, researchers, the farming community, and development partners.

According to the statement, the technology, known as Aflasafe TZ can reduce aflatoxin contamination by 80‒90 percent. It was developed by IITA in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture with support from United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Abdou Konlambigue, managing director for technology transfer and commercialisation initiative (aTTC) said that registration of the technology by the Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) is almost complete and the IITA-led aTTC is facilitating its commercialisation to ensure it is widely available and accessible to farming communities.

“Today’s meeting is very important in efforts to reduce aflatoxin contamination in Tanzania. After more than six years of research, AflasafeTZ is ready for farmers in the fields. We will therefore deliberate together to identify the most strategic way and the most strategic partnership to ensure Aflasafe reaches all maize and groundnut farmers in the country,” said Konlambigue.

Aflatoxin, which has no taste, colour, or smell, is a deadly toxin. It is a known carcinogen responsible for liver cancer in people exposed to the poison through consumption of contaminated food while extreme poisoning causes instant death.

It also causes irreversible stunting in children and lowered body immunity.

Aflatoxin is produced by the naturally occurring Aspergillus fungi found in soils and infects crops, especially maize and groundnut, while in the field.

Aflasafe is made up of fungus too, but of strains that can effectively out-compete and displace those that produce aflatoxin, thus reducing aflatoxin contamination by 80‒90 percent.

“The Aflasafe technology was developed by the United States Department for Agriculture–Agriculture Research Services (USDA‒ARS).

Aflasafe TZ technology is already registered and commercialised in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, and Gambia, according to Victor Manyong, IITA Director for Eastern Africa.