By Claire Wanja/Statement
A major conference is to be held in Nairobi next week to discuss the devastating effects of aflatoxin and explore ways of improving large-scale storage and reducing food losses.
Dubbed the Africa Strategic Grain Reserve Conference, it is organized by the global “not-only-for-profit” company, GrainPro, Inc.
Using the principles of Ultra Hermetic™ technology and modified atmospheres, GrainPro is providing leadership in the Second Green Revolution – the proper storage, handling and distribution of food commodities, without using chemicals or pesticides.
Sponsored by the African Union’s Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA), GrainPro, the Schooner Africa Fund, Abt Associates and AGCO/GSI, the conference will focus on providing safe storage solutions for national grain reserve agencies, while bringing together the ecosystem that supports them – producers such as smallholder farmers and cooperatives, grain traders, government ministries, researchers, funders and international organizations.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr. Philippe Villers, the President of GrainPro, said there is urgent need to improve large-scale storage, reduce food losses and protect African consumers from the serious health consequences of high aflatoxin levels.
Anne Mbaabu, Head, Markets & Harvest Management at AGRA, for her part said post-harvest loss is “the most unanswered and ignored challenge” to food insecurity in Africa, representing more than US$4 billion in lost value every year.
“Governments, cooperatives and farmers need to have better access to appropriate storage facilities and access to new technologies to reduce losses,” said Mbaabu.
“Aflatoxin contamination across food systems undermines the gains made in improving production systems in the developing world,” said Amare Ayalew, Program Manager of PACA. “A major part of the solution to the aflatoxin challenge lies in adequate handling and storage of grains. Increased understanding of challenges and opportunities of grain reserves in the African context will go a long way to mitigating aflatoxin contamination in strategic crops.”
Aflatoxins are poisonous and cancer-causing molds that can lead to stunting in children and severe health problems in adults. They are regularly found in improperly stored commodities such as maize, cassava, millet, rice, sorghum, and wheat. When contaminated grain is processed, Aflatoxins enter the general food supply where they have been found in both pet and human foods.