An important food safety problem is the toxic substances produced by moulds and fungi called mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are formed in susceptible grains such as maize and sorghum if they are handled or stored in wrong conditions.

Mycotoxin contamination is a health risk for lifestock as well as for humans, and mycotoxins can be transferred to humans through milk and dairy products if the animals are fed with contaminated grain.

Mycotoxins can cause acute poisoning as well as cumulative ill-health including cancer. One of the most toxic mycotoxins (aflatoxin) affects almost one quarter of global food and feed output. Aflatoxin reduces productivity of the livestock that decreases farmers’ income.

Each year over 4.5 billion people are at risk of chronic exposure to mycotoxins. These people mainly live in developing countries where the exposure to mycotoxins is not sufficiently controlled. Sub-Saharan Africa is especially vulnerable to mycotoxins because of the climate conditions and climate change may further aggravate the situation.

Mycotoxin control for the staple crops

The fifth work package of the FoodAfrica Programme concentrates on reducing the risk for mycotoxin contamination in staple crops in Kenya. In order to achieve this goal cost-effective and incentive-based mycotoxin control strategies and solutions will be developed for the use of poor farmers and other actors within the feed-dairy chain.

The work package is composed of three principal tasks that are:

  • Integrated risk and economic assessment of the Kenyan feed dairy chain
  • Investigation of technologies and strategies to reduce mycotoxins risk in the feed-dairy chain
  • Impact assessment of a package of post-harvest strategies for reducing aflatoxins in maize

Evidence dissemination and capacity building are included in each task. The capacity of local researchers and thesis students is developed through participation in designing surveys, field work, and data analysis.

This work package also applies participatory methods to develop and test strategies for mitigation of mycotoxins in the feed-food chain. Farmer participatory research engages farmers in action research on their fields so they can learn adopt new technologies and spread the knowledge to other farmers.

Project has started with training and meetings

Delia Grace, the leader for the fifth work package, says that the project has got a good start. Development of a conceptual framework to bring together economic costs and health risks has started with a workshop at ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute).

Other important meetings have been the kick-off event of all FoodAfrica partners, and an introduction to research methods.

“Just last week we had a short introduction to research methods at ILRI where the two PhD students attended from the University of Nairobi. It covered statistical software, reference management, research ethics, systematic literature reviews and gender”, describes Grace.