Researchers get grants to find solution to aflatoxin

  • 05th April 2019
  • by secretary
21 March 2019. FAO estimates that Africa loses about $700 million annually because most agricultural commodities such as maize and ground nuts are contaminated with aflatoxins, and therefore don’t access markets in Europe and America.

Researchers from three universities in Africa have secured funds from African Union Research Grants Programme to conduct studies on how to fight aflatoxin in maize, manage diseases in fish and improve the breed of ingenious chicken.This, according to the project, will fight food insecurity on the continent, which has been attributed to lack of sustainable control of diseases.

The universities — Makerere in Uganda, University of Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique and the University of Zambia—are leading the project.

“One of the key development challenges in Africa is food insecurity and nutrition,

coupled with poverty. To respond to this, we need research that will help us generate innovations. Aflatoxin, which is a key problem the research will address, has contributed to reduction in the market value of Africa’s food stuff. ” Prof Ekwamu Adipala, executive director of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture.

“There is a knowledge gap in developing countries due to inadequate resources and insufficient capacity for aflatoxin analyses. Therefore, we want to determine the prevalence of aflatoxin in maize and value chain in East and Southern Africa. We hope to come up with measures to mitigate the impact of aflatoxin contamination, which countries on the continent can then adopt” Dr Alice Mweetwa, from the University of Zambia and principal researcher of the project.

18 March 2019Reducing maize-based aflatoxin contamination and exposure in ZimbabweMaize is Zimbabwe’s most important food staple, but traditional and conventional storage practices do not protect against major pests and pathogens.

The project used a randomized control trial to test the efficacy of two hermetic (airtight) technologies — metal silos and thick plastic “super bags” — against conventional storage methods such as polypropylene bags and mud huts. Households selected from 12 wards in the Makoni and Shamva districts were randomly assigned to either an intervention group that used the new technology or a control group that used conventional storage. In conjunction with the Department of Agricultural Mechanization, 12 artisans were trained to fabricate the metal silos, which were distributed to farmers in the intervention group.

Researchers assessed the extent of aflatoxin contamination in grain using both types of storage on a quarterly basis for two seasons. Aflatoxin exposure in mothers and children was assessed through a quarterly analysis of aflatoxin M1 as a biomarker in urine samples and breast milk. A total of 941 farmers (594 women, representing 63%) were trained on post-harvest management and on how to use and handle hermetic technologies. These trainings have increased farmers’ knowledge of good farming practices, which in turn will increase agricultural productivity.

Conclusions and recommendations

  • The analysis concluded that hermetic technologies are better than conventional methods and can therefore be used to reduce economic loss due to insect damage. 
  • It is recommended that training and education on good pre- and post-harvest management practices, and health risks associated with consumption of food contaminated with aflatoxins, be institutionalized by relevant government ministries.

Mycotoxins: The Hidden Threat to Human Health in Zimbabwe

22 February 2018.Harare, Zimbabwe. “Mycotoxins: The Hidden Threat to Human Health in Zimbabwe”. MYTOX SOUTH dissemination workshop.