Aflatoxins are a type of mycotoxin—a fungi-produced toxin that can afflict crops—that are common and problematic in developing countries, where climate conditions are ideal for the growth and spread of fungi. (See "About Aflatoxin" for more details.) Since aflatoxin contamination can be reduced by controlling the level of humidity in grain and storage facilities, a number of aflatoxin-related studies have developed and tested various storage techniques across Africa.
The scope of these techniques varies greatly, and adaptation differs greatly between medium- and small-scale producers. Observations from studies conducted by ACDI/VOCA in Kenya suggest that small-scale and poor producers are the least likely to adopt technologies since they lack the necessary resources, and, thus, they are the group most susceptible to aflatoxin exposure.
In 2008, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) partnered with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), ACDI-VOCA, the University of Pittsburgh, the U.S. Uniformed Health Service, Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER), and Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) to investigate methods of reducing aflatoxins in Africa’s agricultural crops, particularly maize and groundnuts, by addressing the related challenges and opportunities that poor farmers currently face. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation kindly agreed to provide funding for this research project: "Exploring the scope of cost-effective aflatoxin risk reduction strategies in maize and groundnut value chains to improve market access of the poor in Africa."
The purpose of this project is to provide empirical evidence of the cost-effectiveness of developing-country technologies currently used to reduce the risk of human and animal exposure to aflatoxin contamination and to understand what is preventing these technologies from being adopted as control strategies in Africa. With this evidence and understanding, it is expected that identified cost-effective measures will be implemented, thereby clearing a path for farmers to produce aflatoxin-free crops and improving market access for poor farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. The case studies of interest are groundnut and maize value chains in Mali and Kenya.
The project value for smallholders is twofold: They will benefit economically because they conduct trade in local markets, as well as physically because they consume most of what they grow so, therefore, their health will improve once they begin to produce uncontaminated crops.
To read the specific project goals, please see click on the "Objectives" tab.