A multi-partner and perseverant long-term effort that continues to slowly but surely make positive impacts on the lives, livelihoods, and trade in Africa is the ongoing work on aflatoxin mitigation strategies centered on Aflasafe. Aflasafe is a natural biocontrol product developed with partners to manage aflatoxin contamination on important food crops in the field and in storage. No other technology provides such a safe, robust, and consistent protection from aflatoxins.
IITA formed the Aflasafe team in 2002. Working with various partners, the team has created a revolution in the way CGIAR research products are delivered to farmers. Joint efforts of the Aflasafe team, national and international institutions, farmers, private sector partners, and donors are contributing to the transformation of Africa’s maize and groundnut food systems towards aflatoxin-safe foods from field to fork.
The Aflasafe factory in Ibadan, Nigeria, is a crowd-drawer and receives hundreds of visitors every year. Photo shows Benito Zeledon of Aflasafe touring visitors.
The team continues to overcome many obstacles such as aflatoxin denialism, doubts in the efficacy of the technology, concerns about registering the products in Africa, skepticism about farmers’ adoption, thinking that there are no aflatoxin-conscious buyers, assuming that private sector investment was impossible, and therefore the use of the technology was bound to be donor money-dependent. On the other hand, perseverance, awareness creation, meetings, multiple-year trials in several countries have proved otherwise.
The research and development efforts conducted by the Aflasafe team is now setting the pace on how biocontrol products should bedeveloped, tested, registered, and transferred to public and private sector partners. Aflasafe belongs to the first generation of non-seed CGIAR technologies, successfully and sustainably making it from the lab to the farm. Adoption and use of this award-winning and impactful technology will ensure the safety of African food systems, improve the health of farmers and consumers, and generate income and trade opportunities for farmers, aggregators, distributors, and traders.
Director General N. Sanginga in a huddle with Dr Ranajit Bandyopadhyay (left) and Engr. Lawrence Kaptoge at the Aflasafe factory in Ibadan.
In summary, 2019 was a year to remember. Multiple recognitions at the individual, national, regional, and continental levels were received. Aflasafe, as a component of A4NH CRP, was highlighted among other major impact stories in the CGIAR system.
Important 2019 milestones:
- Aflasafe SN01 was manufactured for the first time in Senegal by the company BAMTAARE, using an innovative process, the Dry Spore Technology. This long-awaited solution, created to satisfy the needs of IITA partners, will simplify the manufacturing process. The BAMTAARE production allowed treating almost 20,000 ha of crops in Senegal and The Gambia. In addition, 1 ton was sent to Mali for efficacy trials under the CSAT-Mali project. Efficacy results were excellent in both commercial and research trials.
- IITA signed a Technology Transfer and Licensing Agreement with A to Z Textile Mills, Ltd. The agreement established a plan for local manufacture, distribution, and sale of Aflasafe TZ01 in Tanzania. This follows IITA’s three-phase approach to develop a country-specific commercialization strategy, select investors, and execute the investor’s business plan.
- In Ghana, the Ghana Standards Authority launched a National Aflatoxin Sensitization and Management initiative to enhance and extend aflatoxin awareness across the country. This is an initiative funded by AGRA.
- The Ghana Commodity Exchange (GCX) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with IITA to provide a suite of information products to increase awareness about aflatoxin and its management, centered on biocontrol.
- In Burkina Faso, the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Handicrafts, in collaboration with the national farmers’ organization, launched a national project to control aflatoxin in maize. This project was funded by Le Fonds pour l’application des normes et le développement du commerce, supported by the World Trade Organization’s Standards and Trade Development Facility. This project facilitates the strengthening of aflatoxin-safe value chains.
- In Togo, IITA is providing advice and assistance on management strategies and Aflasafe product development. An interim committee, chaired by the Ministry of Agriculture, was established to set up an aflatoxin working group and develop a road map for the development of an Aflasafe product tailored to the country’s needs. The Ministry of Agriculture organized a stakeholder workshop in December to discuss aflatoxins in the country and to brainstorm a road map to address the problem. The Ministry invited IITA to deliver the keynote presentation on aflatoxins, explain the science behind Aflasafe, and advise on the best way to design aflatoxin management strategies.
- L’Agence Française de Développement (AFD) announced a 2.8 million Euro potential grant for the development of an Aflasafe product for Sudan. This is the first time that AFD funds an IITA project. The investment will support a five-year project to develop and commercialize Aflasafe and complement other national public-private efforts in Sudan. In late 2019, Samil Industrial Co., in collaboration with IITA and PACA, hosted a workshop in Khartoum to inaugurate the Multi-stakeholder Partnership for Aflatoxin Mitigation in Sudan – a unique example of a private sector company leading a national initiative to reduce aflatoxin contamination across Africa.
- The first Aflasafe for Africa conference was held in Arusha, Tanzania, on 4-5 It brought together partners to report their progress on commercializing Aflasafe, share experiences and lessons learned, build the capacity of other partners on new developments in Aflasafe technology and production, and forge connections between partners, regulators, suppliers of manufacturing equipment and consumables, and aflatoxin-conscious commodity buyers.
Several publications were written including on (i) atoxigenic strain selection, (ii) efficacy of aflatoxin biocontrol products including a 10-year study in Nigeria, and a 5-year study in Senegal, which demonstrated the effectiveness of the technology under contrasting conditions, its adoption in large scale, and its economic benefits.
To date, 14 Aflasafe products have been registered in 10 African countries (Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, The Gambia, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, and Mozambique) with more under development in 12 countries.
Aflasafe is now manufactured in four countries and is commercially available in eight, with six African countries including its use in their National Agricultural Investment Plans. More importantly, smallholder farmers have used the product on more than 315,000 ha to produce aflatoxin standard-compliant maize and groundnut.
The work of the Aflasafe team is collectively resulting in reduced aflatoxin contamination in participating countries and is stimulating the demand for Aflasafe on the continent and elsewhere.
Maize farmers now enjoy aflatoxin-free maize crops, thanks to Aflasafe.
Authors: Ranajit Bandyopadhyay, Alejandro Ortega-Beltran, IITA-Nigeria (Ibadan)
and Matieyedou Konlambigue, IITA-Ghana (Accra).