Senegal has a population of over 6 million people predominantly producing groundnut each year. The restrictions placed on the export of the crop to Europe, the traditional trade partner, have significantly hurt potential earnings as Senegalese groundnut could not comply with the stringent aflatoxin standard of 4 parts per billion. The situation brightened when China, with a less stringent aflatoxin standard, began to source groundnut from Senegal and became one of the country’s biggest markets.
However, hope turned into despair when the Chinese Government also banned procurement from Senegal due to an alarming abundance of aflatoxins in the imported crop. In spite of the effort to produce large quantities of groundnut to earn more income, the produce rotted in the hands of farmers who were unable to dispose of it because of aflatoxin contamination.
Dr Lamine Senghor is a member of the Aflasafe team leading the project in Senegal and working with the national Plant Protection Directorate (DPV). “In the past,” he explains, “the Chinese Government had sent businessmen to Senegal to purchase groundnut for export. The delegates ended up by rejecting many container loads because of high levels of contamination. Some exporters tried to find other entry points through Thailand and were sent to prison.”
This situation has, however, been brought under control to such an extent that the Chinese Government signed a memorandum of understanding on 3 September 2014 to accept groundnut from the region. This feat was achieved in a short time through several initiatives, including the use of IITA’s biocontrol product Aflasafe SN01.
In 2010, and for the first time in the country, the DPV in collaboration with IITA led an initiative to introduce a new biological control method to reduce aflatoxin. The biocontrol product Aflasafe SN01 contains native Aspergillus flavus strains incapable of producing aflatoxin. It was developed by IITA, the University of Thies, and the United States Department of Agriculture – Agriculture Research Service.
“The results obtained in the groundnut basin during the last five years in hundreds of farmers’ fields are encouraging, translating to a reduction of aflatoxin levels in treated fields by almost 90% compared with controls.” According to the government’s statistical reports Senegal had an increase of 84% in the volume of the country’s export of groundnut in 2014; this can partially be linked to the trust that international
markets are now building for Senegal’s “Aflasafe-grown” groundnut. Consequently, stakeholders in the national workshop organized in Dakar on 4-5 March to discuss Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures in the context of liberalization of exports of groundnut
have pledged to support the production and dissemination of Aflasafe SN01 for solving the problems linked to aflatoxin and food safety.
The forum also recommended Aflasafe SN01 for large-scale use in the country as “the only technology integrated with good agricultural practices that has effectively lowered the level of aflatoxins on groundnut as witnessed by the farmers and exporters that have used it,” Senghor reported.
The product is now being mass produced at the Aflasafe manufacturing plant at IITA in Nigeria and distributed by the private sector company SODEFITEX to farmers in Senegal. Further discussions will take place between SODEFITEX, DPV, and IITA about manufacturing Aflasafe locally to make the product more affordable and readily available while maintaining product quality.
Aflatoxin biocontrol work in Senegal is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture – Foreign Agricultural Service.