Experts from 18 African countries on Wednesday opened a two-day meeting in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi to discuss innovative measures that can enhance aflatoxin control in the continent’s food systems.
Josefa Sacko, the commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment of the African Union Commission (AUC), said that aflatoxin presents an existential threat to food security in the continent.
“African populations are most at risk to chronic aflatoxin exposure because of our heavy reliance on grain-based diets and aflatoxin-prone crops such as maize and groundnuts,” Sacko said in a speech read on her behalf by Afeikhena Jerome, special adviser to the AUC commissioner.
Aflatoxins are highly toxic compounds that contaminate a wide range of staple foods in Africa, worsening hunger, and leading to malnutrition and a public health crisis.
Aggrey Agumya, executive director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), said that staple foods such as cereals are at high risk of exposure to aflatoxin, amid unhygienic post-harvest storage.
Agumya said that FARA is ready to engage more actively in the continent’s agenda to control aflatoxins and take a role in the implementation of the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA) agenda over the next decade.
Mithika Linturi, Kenya’s cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, stressed that scientific data should guide action on aflatoxin control at a continental level.
Linturi said that Kenya has created an enabling policy and regulatory environment to boost aflatoxin control and shield consumers of cereals from health risks.
Amare Ayalew, the program manager of PACA, said that the AU is scaling the number of pilot countries where aflatoxin control measures will be implemented, adding that awareness creation is key to minimizing risks to consumers.