Aflatoxin contamination affects 4.5 billion people across the developing world. Among one of the most carcinogenic substances known, aflatoxins are released from a mold known as the Aspergillus fungi that are commonly found in grains such as maize. When ingested, and in some cases, absorbed through the skin, aflatoxins cause a myriad of fatal cancers, amongst other health issues. In Nigeria, where smallholder farmers produce over 70% of the nation’s maize crop, it is estimated that a high percentage of the nation’s maize may be contaminated by aflatoxin.
Technologies to combat aflatoxin contamination have existed for decades, however, various barriers to market, including consumer awareness, affordability, and a lack of contamination limits, amongst other reasons, have prevented widespread adoption of these technologies.
The Nigeria Aflasafe™ Pilot is a five-year, US $12.68 million pull mechanism that works to incentivize smallholder farmers to adopt Aflasafe™. AgResults offers a per unit payment premium to aggregators and grain traders for each metric ton of high Aflasafe™ treated maize. By motivating smallholders farmers to use Aflasafe™ and providing technical assistance, aggregators help smallholder farmer produce high-Aflasafe™ maize which is healthy and aflatoxin free. The Nigeria Pilot is managed by Adebole Akande.
In order to combat aflatoxin contamination, and increase health outcomes across Africa, Dr. Ranajit Bandyopadhyay of the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), together with Dr. Peter Cotty of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service, utilized a biological control technology that used native strains of the Aspergillius flavus, an aflatoxin producing strain, to create an atoxigenic strain that would outcompete toxigenic strains and limit crop contamination.
Originally developed and registered in the United States for use in groundnuts, cottonseed, and maize, Dr. Bandyopahdyay and his team at IITA collected and evaluated and additional 50,000 A.flavus isolates to identify widely distributed and locally adapted native atoxigenic groups that could be used to combat aflatoxin contamination across Africa. The product, Aflasafe™ was widely disturbed to thousands of maize and peanut farmers to demonstrate the effectiveness of the product in reducing aflatoxin contamination while simultaneously working with biopesticide regulators. This culminated in three country-specific versions of this product, Aflasafe™, were registered for commercial use in Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi, and Uganda. Registration of Aflasafe™ in Zambia, Burkina Faso and Ghana is expected to take place in 2017.