The EAC aflatoxin prevention and control strategy

The EAC aflatoxin prevention and control strategy

Background

The East Africa Community Vision is to create “a prosperous, competitive, secure and politically united East Africa”.  The Mission of the Community is “to widen and deepen Economic, Political, Social and Cultural Integration in order to improve the quality of life of the people of East Africa through increased competitiveness, value added production trade and investment”.

One of the key areas of cooperation spelt out in the EAC Treaty is to harmonize Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures in order to facilitate trade within the community and other trading partners. The SPS Protocol adopted by EAC Partner States in 2013 is the main overarching instrument for operationalization of EAC SPS agenda.  Its principal objective is to adopt and enforce SPS measures in order to safeguard human, animal and plant health. The EAC Aflatoxin prevention and control project is anchored within the broader context of the aforementioned SPS provisions. 

Aflatoxin: Definition and magnitude

The aflatoxin is a highly carcinogenic produced by the Aspergillus spp. especially “A. flavus”, a fungus commonly found in soils and on plant matter, including cereals, oil seeds, root crops, spices and legumes. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates that 25% of world food crops are affected while the Center for Diseases Control (CDC) estimate that more than 4.5 billion people in developing world are exposed to Aflatoxin. Countries situated between the 40ºN and 40ºS of the equator are most at risk, with the combination of heat and high moisture levels as the key factor in facilitating the growth of the fungus.

The Operational Context for Aflatoxin Prevention and Control in EAC Partner States

Existing efforts to mitigate aflatoxin at national level in the EAC Partner States have remained fragmented and not adequately supported, technically and financially.  The EAC Regional Project on Aflatoxin has been designed to address this gap through development of a multi-sectoral and pragmatic evidence-based Strategy and Action Plan. The Strategy will be the foundation to move the EAC Partner States to a coordinated and harmonized course of action in tackling the impacts and effects of aflatoxin.  The prevailing operational context for Aflatoxin prevention and control has been reviewed in each EAC Partner State. The situational analysis of aflatoxin in Burundi is summarized below. 

Situational Analysis of Aflatoxin in Burundi

Aflatoxin management is still at a nascent stage in the Republic of Burundi. While the country has enacted SPS and zoo sanitary legislation, the two pieces of legislation have no provisions on aflatoxin management.  The prevailing circumstances suggest that the magnitude of aflatoxin in Burundi could be high.  The ISABU (Burundi National Agricultural Research Institute) in collaboration with ASARECA-ILRI and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) have undertaken research through sampling and analysis of maize and groundnuts in 2013 and 2014. The publication of the research outcome is underway.  Sampling collection was conducted in all agro-ecological zones where maize and groundnuts are produced. The results revealed aflatoxin presence across the entire country with a high prevalence in low altitude regions of Imbo, Mosso, Bugesera and Buyenzi due to high temperature and a good amount of humidity recorded in those regions.  The lack of baseline on the incidence and prevalence on aflatoxin has been a major challenge in the country. 

In addressing this gap, IITA in collaboration with ISABU are working on modalities of generating baseline and exploring options for biocontrol interventions. In addition sensitization meetings were organized in 2016 with a range of participants from different stakeholders including public and private sectors as well as the civil society. Also, participants from agriculture, health, environment, trade, standards bureau (BBN), farmers groups, journalists, NGOs, researchers, academia, etc. attended the meetings. A manual guide and flier (in Kirundi and French) were designed to cover a wide sensitization.

Way forward

The EAC Secretariat and Partner States are called to intensify sensitization at national and   regional levels to inform people on the prevention and control of aflatoxin. Burundi is called up to establish a national technical working group on aflatoxin prevention and control and should mobilize resources for aflatoxin prevention and control along the agriculture sector value chains in the Country.