Fighting a deadly fungus

At our Dadamac UK-Nigeria meeting on May 14th John Dada mentioned that he had to rush out to the primary school just near Fantsuam Foundation to give an urgent message on maize planting this season.

John explained

An ongoing problem with maize growing in Nigeria is its contamination with the fungus that produces aflatoxins... FF is raising awareness on this health issue and will be providing training to farmers on preventive measures to ensure health of their maize crops..

And as you know everybody in rural Nigeria is a farmer, so we went to book an appointment so that on Thursday I will have a 20 minute talk session with the Teacher-Farmers...

Nigeria used to be proud of its groundnut exports and Kano had groundnut pyramids that were a major tourist attraction... But since the discovery of aflatoxin contamination of our peanuts, that foreign exchange earner had died... Now we want to promote good farming practices to improve the quality of our maize and groundnuts.

Today John has sent further details

Fantsuam Foundation is teaming up with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan and the National Agricultural Extension Research Service of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria to raise awareness of the aflatoxin-preventive measures for maize and groundnuts.

High levels of aflatoxin in these staple crops poses serious human and live stocks health hazards in addition to the major loss in farmers' income. (See Aflatoxin is a silent killer and Biocontrol product developed by IITA..) Aflatoxin fungus contamination of cereals, dried fruit and nuts can cause liver damage, according to the World Health Organisation. It also exerts an economic toll. A recent World Bank study noted that the European Union regulation on aflatoxins costs Africa $750 million.

Aflatoxin contamination of Nigeria's staple crops is a well researched topic but it is only recently that the political and financial resources required to implement aggressive preventive measures have been mobilised. The first wave of pilot programmes are being supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank. The IITA has developed a biological control of aflatoxin contamination.

As an implementing partner, Fantsuam Foundation will be working closely with about 500 small scale farmers who have a minimum of 2 hectares each to produce aflatoxin-free maize. This pilot is also exploring intervention at other sectors of the maize value chain such as the market linkages.

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