Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (Paca), a pan-African body, said African countries, including Malawi, still need support and coordination in developing human capacity and infrastructure to mitigate impact of aflatoxin on agriculture and health systems.
Aflatoxin is a fungus that affects crops such as groundnuts and maize and is described by experts as ‘a silent killer’ due to its health concerns.
Malawi’s groundnuts were recently banned for export to some countries, including regional economic powerhouse South Africa, over aflatoxin fears.
Paca technical officer Benoit Gnonlonfin, speaking on the sidelines of a training workshop for technical officers in the ministries of trade, agriculture and health and the civil society on various aflatoxin adaptation and mitigation measures, said there are a lot of gaps in human capacity and infrastructure for dealing with aflatoxin.
“We are now seeking to improve the capacity and fill the gap by training the technical officers in various government departments. For successful mitigation, we need a critical mass and appropriate equipment which must inform policy and regulation,” he said.
Gnonlonfin said while the international community has done well in coordinating efforts, especially in providing technical support, there is need to do more in providing direct support to African states.
Paca programme officer Wezie Sambo said the organisation will invest over $200 000 (about K88 million) in improving the capacity of Chitedze Research Station’s equipment for aflatoxin analysis as well as supporting national trainings and situation analysis.
She saluted Malawi Government for taking several steps, including the formation of the Malawi Programme for Aflatoxin Control (Mapac) which she said has drastically improved the country’s coordination in the fight against aflatoxin.
“The major challenge is that aflatoxin is a crosscutting problem. It is a not just a trade issue with impact on the economy; it is also a health and gender issue.
“As a health issue, its impact might not be seen immediately sometimes because this is a silent killer,” Sambo.
Malawi Government has increased its efforts to tackle aflatoxin and a study by the Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) recently revealed difficulties facing rural farmers in finding new markets due to aflatoxin challenges.