(KALRO, AATF, IITA, USAID)
By HENRY OWINO
-9 Nov 2016-Smallholder farmers in Kenya will have minimal crop loses before and after harvest with the application of Aflasafe which controls aflatoxins common in maize, peanuts, cassava and other crops. Kenya is the second country in Africa after Nigeria, with Senegal in the pipeline to be the third.
Aflatoxins are mainly produced by the fungi Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasticus, both in the field and during storage. It invades and contaminates up to 65 percent of maize and groundnut crops thus leading to low harvests.
Crops infested by aflatoxin cannot produce healthy cereals for consumption by human beings and even to livestock. This therefore leads to food insecurity to the residents and increases poverty levels.
Joseph Ngetich, Deputy Director, State Department of Agriculture explained that Kenya used to import aflasafe from Ibadan,Nigeria under permit from the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) for field trials.
Ngetich confirmed that farm testing of alfasafe were conducted in Eastern region considered a hot spot for aflatoxicoses outbreaks, and Bura and Hola in Coastal Kenya, where tons of maize are regularly and highly contaminated with aflatoxin.
He disclosed results showed that aflasafe is highly effective at preventing aflatoxin contamination with a single application in a single season.
“In all three areas, concentrations of aflatoxins in treated farmers’s fields were significantly lower than aflatoxin concentrations in farmer’s fields that were left untreated,”Ngetich asserted.
Eliud Kireger, Director General,KALRO regretted that aflatoxin exposure is frequent and widespread in most African countries where key staple crop is maize. The fungus also affects melon seeds, rice just to mention but a few crops that farmers grow in large plantation.
Kireger said aflatoxin situation in Kenya is real and its impact on food security and trade has caused more harm to farmers, consumers and government. He mentioned farmers especially those growing maize have had loses rendering majority poor and thousands of consumers to starve.
“Maize is staple crop for several households in Kenya and Africa at large so, when maize in infested by aflatoxin, food insecurity becomes eminent,” Kireger revealed.
David Githanga, Paeditrician cautioned that aflatoxin affects human health and livestock as well. He cautioned that especially children during the first 1000 days from mother’s pregnancy to the child’s second birthday.
Gathanga advised pregnant mothers in aflatoxin infested regions to be cautious in maize meal they feed on or any other crop easily attacked by the fungus.
“Aflatoxin is linked to liver disease, stunting, and immune-suppression mostly to human beings. Farmers and consumers must avoid temptations of feeding on maize and nuts infected by aflatoxin,” Gathanga cautioned.
Gathanga said aflatoxin may not cause immediate impacts like death but long term health problems leading to frequent on and off hospital for treatments. The eventual result is resistant health complications causing premature death.
Farmers who rear poultry and livestock should not feed contaminated cereals to chicken as it decreases productivity and profitability of livestock. On the other hand, crops with higher than permissible aflatoxin levels are either forced into low-value markets or destroyed.
The high level of aflatoxin often found in many agricultural commodities in the region prohibit the flow of exports, resulting in millions of dollars of unrealized revenue each year. Globally over US$1.2 billion is lost annually due to aflatoxin contamination above accepted thresholds, with Africa economies losing US$450 million each year.
Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) together with United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF) have developed Aflasafe.