Sunday, 26 June 2011


14 June 2011. A new strategy in combating the aflatoxin-causing fungus Aspergillus flavus was recently launched in Nigeria. The project funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation aims to develop a biocontrol technology that includes the introduction of strains of the non-toxic fungus in the affected fields to outcompete and reduce the population of the toxic ones.

Aflatoxin contamination in Nigeria and Kenya has reached a record high, and since 2004, nearly 150 people have died after eating contaminated maize. Millions of bags of contaminated maize has been taking up storage and disposing them has also become a problem.

"This project will take our biocontrol product, commercialize it, and make it available to farmers. We have worked on it for many years, tested it in many fields in Nigeria and we are pleased with its effectiveness,"said Paula Bramel, IITA Deputy Director General, Research for Development of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.

Prem Warrior, a senior Program Officer from the Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation, said aflatoxin impacted negatively on human health and was a barrier to trade and economic growth.
“Today we have an opportunity to do something about it (aflatoxins). This project is a short term development strategy to test the technology and learn on product development issues. We have confidence in the technology but how we will commercialize it and who are our customers?” 

Acting Executive Director of African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF) Jacob Mignouna, noted that "maize was an important staple food for 300 million people depending on the crop so its contamination was of great concern".

Director of Kenya Agricultural Research Organization (KARI) Ephraim Mukisira was happy to note "the speed at which the discussions on aflatoxin were moving from the boardroom down to where the problem was".

Ranajit explains how aflasafe works
Ranajit Bandyopadhyay, IITA’s plant pathologist, was also happy with the opportunity accorded by the project to tackle an old problem with many partners and support of BMGF. He said the project was adding value to previous investments in biocontrol. “The project will support the final stage of commercialization of ‘Aflasafe’ in Nigeria and the selection of the most effective strains, development of a biocontrol product and gathering of efficacy data in Kenya.”

A video documentary on development of aflasafe - a safe and natural biocontrol product that drastically cuts aflatoxin contamination in African food crops.