A total of 90% of grain foods produced and consumed locally in northern Uganda is mycotoxin-contaminated, research done by Gulu University has established. The contamination exposes risk to human beings and animals when eaten.
The findings by the university’s faculty of agriculture and environment were got with support from the Ghent University of Belgium.
The director of multifunctional research laboratories at Gulu University, Assoc. Prof. Richard Echodu, who led the research team, said the project took four years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 320 farmers were visited in 2020 in Kitgum, Lamwo, Agago, Gulu, Oyam, Kole, Nwoya, Amuru, Omoro, Alebtong, Pader and Lira.
“Our effort is aimed at tackling the challenge of mycotoxin contamination in this region and working out an integrated approach based on prevention, intervention and remediation,” Echodu said.
He adds that staple foods produced in northern Uganda are highly susceptible to infection by fungi and environmental factors which favour its development before and during harvest.
Godfrey Wokorach, a PhD student at Gulu University, who contributed in the research, said: “The mean levels of aflatoxins concentration in grain foods exceeded the Ugandan national regulatory limits. Sorghum samples exceeded the European Union maximum tolerable limit,” he said.
Christopher Obalim, the deputy Gulu University secretary, said many farmers in northern Uganda are losing market for their agricultural produce.
“We have shown the world that we are not trustworthy by adding sand to our products to earn more money. However, I appeal to stakeholders to monitor the quality of the produce and ensure that whatever we produce is acceptable globally,” he said.