Biological control of aflatoxins using aflasafe™ not only has rekindled hopes of a brighter future for African farmers battling crop contamination but also opened doors for the private sector looking to invest on a winning formula in the agricultural sector.
The aflasafe™ technology, which uses ‘good fungus’ to fight the ‘bad ones’, had provided relief to hundreds of maize farmers in northern Nigeria—a region where more than 70 percent of the population depend on agriculture as a source of livelihood.
In 2009 alone, participating farmers in field trials using aflasafe™ reduced contamination by about 80 percent, according research by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
Consequently, results from efficacy tests of the product have opened a window of opportunity for the private sector to tap into.
“The approach is the best method of controlling aflatoxins,” said Dotun Oladele, a Senior Laboratory Technology Manager with Animal Care Consults during a UNIDO-convened meeting with the private sector in Lagos that offered IITA the chance to introduce aflasafe™.
Produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus, aflatoxins pose barriers to domestic and international trade of maize and peanuts in sub-Saharan Africa because of contaminated grains.
Worse still, the contaminated grains have carcinogenic properties that endanger both humans and animals.
“Aflatoxin contamination in grains is a major problem but is unknown to many farmers. When it attacks, some farmers assume it to be a ‘spiritual attack’,” Oladele explained.
“Once there is aflatoxicosis, egg production drops and mortality of poultry follows,” he added.
Representatives of local investors under the aegis of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Business Group commended the technology and promised to sell the business model to their members with a view to finding an investor.
“We know of a lot of people that will be interested in this technology and that have the capability to galvanize this idea into manufacturing,” said A.A. Roberts, Executive Secretary/ Chief Executive Officer, NEPAD Business Group-Nigeria.
According to Ranajit Bandyopadhyay, IITA Plant Pathologist, and Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon, Coordinator of the CGIAR's Systemwide Program on Integrated Pest Management, with an initial investment outlay of US$1-3 million in an aflasafe™ manufacturing plant, investors are likely to reap about N20 million (about US$1.33 million) annually.
Bandyopadhyay said that an investment in an aflasafe™ manufacturing plant in Nigeria would pay off considering the huge demand for quality maize in the country.
His estimates showed that over 60 percent of harvested maize in Nigeria currently has high levels of aflatoxins and are prone to being rejected by the feed industry.
“This makes investment in this technology a viable option, not only for profit but also to improve the health of the people,” he added.
EDITORS’ NOTE: aflasafe™ is provisionally registered in Nigeria by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). It was developed by IITA in collaboration with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), and the Agriculture Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture.
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Africa has complex problems that plague agriculture and people's lives. We develop agricultural solutions with our partners to tackle hunger and poverty. Our award winning research for development (R4D) is based on focused, authoritative thinking anchored on the development needs of sub-Saharan Africa. We work with partners in Africa and beyond to reduce producer and consumer risks, enhance crop quality and productivity, and generate wealth from agriculture. IITA is an international non-profit R4D organization established in 1967, governed by a Board of Trustees, and supported primarily by the CGIAR.