Senegalese stakeholders adopt “Aflasafe SN01” in national strategy to revive groundnut exports

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.

Stakeholders come together in Burkina Faso to look at biocontrol solution for aflatoxin

IITA with partners United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research in Burkina Faso (INERA) is convening a stakeholders’ conference aimed at increasing awareness of the hazards of aflatoxins, understanding the peculiarities of aflatoxin contamination in local farming areas, and promoting biocontrol mechanisms for stemming its spread in susceptible crops throughout Africa.

Key stakeholders representing various partner institutions during the opening program.
Key stakeholders representing various partner institutions during the opening program.

The stakeholders’ meeting is taking place 23–24 April at the Splendid Hotel, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Participants include producers, scientists, and private-public sector partners working directly with the aflasafe project in reaching farmers in the region and seed companies, CNRST, USDA-FAS, Nestle, and partner universities.

Aflatoxins are naturally occurring poisons produced by fungi known as Aspergillus flavus and others which contaminate the soil and crops (especially maize and groundnut). This contamination has debilitating effects on human health, lowers production of livestock and agriculture, and severely restricts trade opportunities for most farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Specific interventions in the form of biocontrol mechanisms can, however, be employed in controlling and preventing aflatoxin contamination. This approach significantly improves the security and quality of agricultural produce and increases trade opportunities for stakeholders all along the value chain.

Dr Ranajit Bandyopadhyay, IITA Pathologist (middle row, with laptop), gives an update on the aflasafe project, the factory in IITA Ibadan that produces the biocontrol product, and the market models being used in Nigeria, Kenya, and Senegal to promote access to aflasafe.
Dr Ranajit Bandyopadhyay, IITA Pathologist (middle row, with laptop), gives an update on the aflasafe project, the factory in IITA Ibadan that produces the biocontrol product, and the market models being used in Nigeria, Kenya, and Senegal to promote access to aflasafe.

IITA has adapted a biocontrol approach for Africa that changes the composition of fungal communities by letting local strains of nontoxic A. flavus (atoxigenic strains) become established in the crop environment in place of strains that produce large amounts of aflatoxin. A biocontrol product, called aflasafe BF01, for Burkina Faso was developed by
IITA and partners to reduce the rate of contamination in crops and subsequent risks.

aflasafe BF01 is a natural, simple, safe, and cost-effective product that uses native nontoxic strains to replace aflatoxin-producing fungi. Similar products are being developed or used in more than 10 other African countries. Trials of BF01 have shown a remarkable reduction in aflatoxin contamination in maize (85%) and groundnut (94%). These results have encouraged IITA and its partners to explore the opportunities for escalating the adoption of aflasafe as an effective tool in preventing the spread of aflatoxins in Burkina Faso in particular and sub-Saharan Africa in general. This can be achieved by educating stakeholders about the dangers of aflatoxins and the efficacy of aflasafe.

N2Africa receives World Bank award

N2Africa has received a prestigious prize through the Harvesting Nutrition Contest, sponsored by the World Bank, which aimed at rewarding agricultural projects around the world  that have bridged the gaps between nutrition, agriculture and food security. N2Africa was picked among 50 highly-acclaimed projects from around the world, all showcasing efforts to improve the impact of interventions in agriculture and food security on nutritional outcomes.

The contest was organized by the Secure Nutrition Knowledge Platform in partnership with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and Save the Children.

N2Africa emerged winner alongside two other projects. It was chosen because of its positive impact on the nutrition of its beneficiaries, novelty in its approach to linking agriculture and nutrition, demonstration of an application of old approaches employed in an innovative way, and potential feasibility on a broad-scale basis.

In addition to getting the US$ 5000 prize money, N2Africa will also be documented in a multimedia portrait which will be made available for viewing on the Secure Nutrition website.

The N2Africa project focuses on maximizing benefits for smallholder farmers growing legumes, such as groundnut, cowpea and common bean – generally regarded as women’s crops in Africa – through nitrogen fixation. This is a process that gives soil bacteria the ability to convert atmospheric nitrogen into plant-usable forms. IITA and Wageningen University are taking the lead in this project that is being implemented with funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Howard G. Buffet Foundation.