According to the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA) report, 45% of grains produced in Uganda are contaminated with aflatoxins, which affect approximately 25% of the world’s food supply and disproportionately impact the poor.
Uganda loses an estimated $38 million annually in lost export opportunities because of aflatoxin.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture’s data in 2018, Kenya rejected 600,000 tonnes of maize from Uganda, equivalent to sh180b owing to poor quality and aflatoxin contamination.
According to World Health Organisation, aflatoxins are poisonous substances produced by certain kinds of fungi that are found naturally all over the world; and they affect approximately 25% of the world’s food supply and pose a serious health threat to humans and livestock.
Several environmental conditions and practices worsen crop aflatoxin contamination and often occur in the field and storage.
To do away with this negative impact, a field-applied biocontrol product, Aflasafe, which reduces aflatoxin contamination by 80% – 99% from farm to plate has been introduced.
The product is produced by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in partnership with the National Agriculture Research Organisation (NARO).
Jaliyah Nalubega, the Research Technician from IITA, says they are finalising the development of the product.
She explains that the product is a safe and effective natural product for the integrated management of aflatoxin in the maize, sorghum, and groundnut value chains in Uganda.
“We are conducting communication and awareness activities to let the public know the effects of aflatoxin and why they need to avoid it,” she said.
Dr. Valentine Nakato, a plant pathologist at IITA says Aflasafe is a 100% natural product for controlling poisonous Aspergillus flavus (A.flavus) in food crops, including maize.
“It is made up of strains of Aspergillus, not flavus that do not produce the poison and are coated on sterile sorghum grains. When applied in the field at the right time, it is able to displace toxin-producing Aspergillus strains, thereby reducing aflatoxins and making the crops safe,” she said.
According to Dr. Nakato, once the product is rolled out to the market after all the trials are complete, it is anticipated to lead to a significant improvement in the safety of key staple food crops such as sorghum, millet, cassava, maize among others.
She added that it will also unlock premium formal markets, both domestic and international, which test for aflatoxin contamination and, as such, are today often closed to smallholder production.
“Through this initiative, Uganda will join Kenya, Tanzania, and Nigeria, among others which have their country-specific Aflasafe products registered and are commercially available,” she said.
How does Alfasafe work?
According to Nalubega, after broadcasting and exposure to sufficient moisture, the Aflasafe fungi grow out, and the blue-coloured sorghum grains will now be covered with green spores.
Explaining that these growing fungi first appear as white fuzz and change to green fuzz containing millions of spores.
The green spores eventually spread to the crop, carried by wind and insects in the manner that aflatoxin-producing fungi are spread.
“Aflasafe can be used with intercropping, and it does not harm other crops because it is a natural product made from fungi obtained from crops and soils. Intercropping does not affect Aflasafe’s performance,” she says.
According to moral et al. 2020, several atoxigenic biocontrol products under the trade name Aflasafe have been developed. They are now available for commercial use in Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique.