The negative effect of aflatoxins on crops and animals has affected health, productivity, and reduced the market value of agricultural products internationally, going by the outcome of a study carried out in Kenya.
A bio-control product, Aflasafe KE01, has therefore, been introduced to tackle the situation. It will be facilitated by the farmer’s willingness to pay and factors that will affect their decision.
Aflatoxins are a family of secondary toxins produced by certain fungi found on a wide range of commodities including maize and groundnut.
The primary fungi that produce aflatoxins are Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus found in warm and humid regions of the world.
Aflatoxin-producing fungi can contaminate crops in the field during harvest and storage, making food and feed unsafe for human and animal consumption.
This has led to various health issues such as cancer, liver damage, and stunted growth in humans.
Aflasafe is a safe natural solution to the problem of aflatoxin, homegrown in Africa with help from partners in the USA and Europe. It works from the plot to your plate to stop contamination from reaching dangerous levels and keep foods like maize and groundnuts safe to eat.
Aflasafe tackles toxic tragedy using harmless types of Aspergillus flavus. Surprisingly, this is the same kind of fungus that produces aflatoxin, but in this case they are kindlier cousins that do not and cannot ever produce the toxin.
Each country has its own version of Aflasafe using a mixture of four fungal strains, all found growing naturally in local soils. The friendly fungi are coated onto ordinary sorghum grain, which acts as a vehicle to help them get established and can easily be broadcast onto fields.
It seems strange for the same fungus to be both poison and cure, but it is a bit like sending a thief to catch a thief: only Aspergillus can stop Aspergillus.
Farmers apply Aflasafe to their plants early on, and the friendly fungi occupy the growing food before the dangerous ones can get a toehold. Aflasafe might look like a poacher but it is really a gamekeeper, staking out its territory and making life difficult for the bad guys.
Aflasafe has many benefits
It is highly effective, cutting aflatoxin in food drastically and making it safe to eat, and completely safe and environmentally friendly product, sourced from nature.
Aflasafe stays with food, protecting it all the way through storage and onto your plate. It only needs to be applied by farmers once each growing season, and is cheap and cost-effective.
Aflasafe is an African initiative, using inputs sourced in Africa. The bio-control approach to aflatoxin, using natural competitors to tackle the toxin-makers rather than chemicals, was first developed in the USA, where it has been used safely and effectively on over a million acres of farmland for more than a decade.
Aflasafe followed the same basic principle, adapted for Africa using local fungi tested extensively on the ground. The African products are also more sophisticated, as they use four different strains instead of only one – giving us four good guys with different strengths to fight together.
Aflasafe prevents dangerous levels of aflatoxin contamination, ensuring that food is healthy to eat and meets public safety standards. As well as making food safer for Africans, it allows African harvests to be sold on high-value international markets and improves production for livestock and poultry farmers.
It is being promoted as one powerful solution, and it works best in combination with other good practices such as proper drying and storage. However, it is also a big help even under poor conditions such as damp storage.
However, the researchers carried out the study in four counties—Makueni, Machakos, Kitui, and Tana River—the hotspot regions for aflatoxin contamination. The research team used systemic sampling to select a sample size of 480 farmers. The Contingent Valuation Method (CVM) was used for the analysis.
The study revealed that the major constraints to aflatoxin management, despite the numerous recommendations, are a poor interpretation of knowledge about solutions, time and labor intensiveness of some of the technologies, inadequate know-how on use of technologies, and ethical aspects.
There is also the issue of climate change favoring aflatoxin accumulation even when mitigation measures are in place.
The study also highlighted the need for integrating different approaches to the control of aflatoxin contamination, such as breeding for resistance, good agricultural practices, biological control, postharvest measures, physical methods, chemical methods, genetic engineering, and enforcement of regulatory measures.
Aflasafe KE01 is effective, cutting aflatoxin levels in maize and groundnut by 80% to 100%, down to safe levels. A single application of Aflasafe KE01 by farmers protects food for humans and animals, with Aflasafe-treated maize cutting chicken mortality by 40%.
The study revealed that contact with the extension agents positively influenced farmers’ willingness to pay for the aflatoxin biological control product. The extension agents introduced it to them through awareness activities and the availability of household income.
The findings suggested that distribution networks should be made available to reach end-users to scale up the product.