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Rwandan Farmers Wary Of Aflatoxins

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Agriculture is the backbone of Rwanda’s economy, accounting for 80% of the country’s earnings and 39% of gross domestic product – as well as providing 90% of the country’s food needs (World Bank, 2013).

A major threat to farmers’ crops – and both the agricultural economy and nutritional safety of the nation – are aflatoxins- a poisonous substances produced by certain kinds of fungi that are found naturally all over the world.

Aflatoxin can contaminate food crops and pose a serious health threat to humans and livestock.

Beyond the health risks, aflatoxins also pose a significant economic burden, causing an estimated 25% or more of the world’s food crops to be destroyed annually (World Health Organization, 2018).

Aflatoxins are common across numerous crops, found in maize, peanuts, rice, sorghum, millet, wheat, and cassava, due to fungal contamination before and after harvesting.

Because contamination can occur at any stage from field to table, an integrated approach is necessary to reduce the health and economic risks posed by aflatoxins.

This means training farmers on how to avoid contamination during and after harvest, proper drying and storage of susceptible crop products, and appropriate alternative uses to retain at least some economic return on value of damaged crops.

Maize is one of the most productive crops,as important as it is, maize farmers face a great challenge in this sector due to the aflatoxin virus that is commonly fond in grains.

Aflatoxins are potent carcinogens and may affect all organ systems, especially the liver and kidneys; they cause liver cancer and have been linked to other types of cancer (WHO, 2018).

The Government of Rwanda and its partners are working to mitigate the problem and develop a lasting solution using Rwandan traditional farming practices to reduce seed contamination and improve quality of maize in post harvest.

Traditionally, farmers used to harvest maize and dry it on the floor, but in the back of their minds, they would spare few maize comb seeds to bank as seedlings for the planting season.

The selected maize seeds would be hanged upside down (Gusharika) on a line outside or inside the house, to avoid wetness and fungi attack on the seed that cause toxins (aflatoxin) which are dangerous to human liver when consumed.

Over the last two years, the Clinton Development Initiative (CDI), the Ministry of Agriculture, and Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC) and Africa Improved Foods (AIF) have partnered to implement a project, funded by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to combat aflatoxin in the maize supply chain.

The goal of this project, funded by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)was to reduce aflatoxin levels in maize through better awareness about aflatoxin and use of aflatoxin management strategies; training for farmers on aflatoxin causes, risks, detection, prevention, control, and postharvest in maize.

By the end of 2020, 59,430 farmers were trained, and more than 61,000 farmers participated in field-based training events in seven districts of the Eastern province, Kirehe, Ngoma, Bugesera, Kayonza, Rwamagana, Gatsibo, and Nyagatare Districts.

Since then, there has been tremendous progress in the understanding and application of best practices related to aflatoxin reduction and production in the maize supply chain.

The amount of Grade 1 grains sold to AIF rose from 61.3 percent in season B of 2019, to 91.1 percent in season A of 2020. Additionally, 90% of maize sold on the cob to AIF was Grade 1.

Kohiika Cooperative Cooperative chairperson, Gloriose Mukamana attests to the importance of these trainings, saying:

“After a training on aflatoxin our production increased, where we used to buy 200MT of maize from our cooperative members, we can now get more than 1,100 MT of grade one and two maize.Income has increased due to increase in production that is being offered by the market to our cooperative,” Mukamana said.

Mukamana said the cooperative has been able to cut down the effects of aflatoxin in our crops at a good percentage of at least 95%”

“Our farmers are happy since none of their production has been rejected from the quality market like it used to be before.

We still have farmers who are struggling in taking good care of their production and what we are doing is to educate them again on the side effects of aflatoxin and losses it can cause to their production,” Mukamana said.

At the cooperative they hope that every farmer will have understood the benefits of fighting aflatoxin and we will be aflatoxin free.

However, there is still more to be done. Currently, only nearly 60,000 farmers have been trained on aflatoxin reduction and management by CDI Rwanda.

One way to more effectively reach farmers is through cooperatives and farming communities.

CDI has supported the formation of farming community groups through its efforts over the past 15 years in the country, to help farmers meet community agribusiness compliance standards, becoming more independent and improving their lives sustainably.

With the standards put in place,it will be easy to access the farmersand easy to provide them with knowledge onhow to combat the aflatoxin in crops in large numbers as cooperative.

Looking forward, there are many opportunities for diverse actors and solutions across the agriculture sector to tackle this problem at scale.

The existing harvesting and post-harvest drying procedures in Rwanda takes too long.

It is done by maize farmers with limited or no access to drying and storage facilities based on subsistence, or local-market consumption.

These rudimentary post-harvest practices have led to long-standing quality issues and contribute to the presence of aflatoxins.

These problems are further compounded by the unavailability of drying facilities.

Critical investments are still needed to build on this work and make further progress against aflatoxins.

Experts say the agriculture sector needs investment in driers, warehouses, Aflasafe; other inputs that might help mitigate the presence of aflatoxin in production; and development of new maize varieties that might be more resistant to aflatoxin.

Farmers called on partners, funders, and markets must come together to support this work to tackle aflatoxin, enable maize markets to thrive, and boost healthy communities.

The partnership between the Ministry of Agriculture and partners is just the beginning and a great example of impactful work that needs to be scaled across Rwanda and beyond to see the reduction in aflatoxin that will unlock stronger and more resilient market linkages.

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Uganda Dumps More 47 Rwandans At Border

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Rwandan authorities on Saturday received an extra 47 Rwandans expelled by Uganda authorities.

Details indicate that Uganda Immigration authorities on Saturday afternoon deported 47 (including;29 males and 9 Females and 9children) Rwandan nationals from Uganda accused of illegal entry and stay.

“They are going to be tested of Covi-19 and will be interviewed for more details,” Rwanda authorities said.

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Minister Ugirashebuja In DRC For EAPCCO General Meeting

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The Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Dr. Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, on Friday, October 15, attended the 23rd Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (EAPCCO) annual general meeting in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The meeting for Council of Ministers responsible for Police affairs in the 14-member countries, preceded the Council of Police Chiefs held on Thursday under the theme “Enhancing law Enforcement Strategies in Combating Transnational Organized Crimes in the Wake of COVID-19 and Beyond.”

EAPCCO member states are Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

The ministers appreciated EAPCCO member countries for their effort in combating terrorism and transnational organized crimes through enhanced cooperation and collaboration.

While officially opening the meeting, the Prime Minister and Chief of Government for DRC, Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde, emphasized the importance of sub-regional organizations in the fight against transnational organized crimes.

“There is need to foster cooperation and to build capacity of law enforcement officers, continually share information and conduct due diligence on suspects,” Lukonde said.

He commended member countries for the continued support to DRC President, Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo in his roles as the current President of African Union.

DR Congo took over the chairmanship for both councils of Police Chiefs and ministers responsible for the Police affairs, from Tanzania.

The ministers welcomed the decision by the Council of Police Chiefs to elevate the Marine Police College in Mwanza, Tanzania to EAPCCO Centre of Excellence in Maritime Police training.

DR Congo was also given the responsibility to establish a regional operation unit under EAPCCO Counter Terrorism Centre of Excellence (CTCoE) to collect, analyze and disseminate terrorism related information for action.

Other resolutions include expediting EAPCCO Centers of Excellence by host countries, strengthening sharing of crime-related information on transnational organized crimes and heightening the use of Interpol policing capabilities to facilitate the process.

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Thomas Sankara’s Assassination Trial Adjourned To October 21

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Burkina Faso’s former president Thomas Sankara was assassinated 34 years ago in a military coup bringing an end to a charismatic Marxist revolutionary widely known as ‘Africa’s Che Guevara’.

Immediately after Sankara’s murder, his wife Mariam Sankara and their two children Philippe Sankara and Auguste Sankara fled to Burkina Faso in 1987.

Thomas Sankara seized power in a 1983 coup at the age of 33 with promises to tackle corruption and the dominance of former colonial powers.

Mariam Sankara on Monday flew back to Ouagadougou for the opening of the trial of her husband’s murder. 14 people are accused of plotting the assassination.

Among the accused includes Blaise Compaore the man who was a close ally to Mr Sankara. Blaise Compaore led a military coup that toppled Sankara and his immediate execution.

Compaore went on to rule the West African nation for almost three decades before he himself was ousted and fled to neighbouring Ivory Coast.

This trial has been highly awaited as the murder of Sankara has mysterious ramifications and has remained a very sensitive subject across the continent.

At the opening trial, Compaore was not present. The former first lady told media that the absence of former president Blaise Compaoré, the main suspect in her husband’s assassination, was a “shame”, adding: “I really hope that this trial will shed some light.”

However, Compaore’s lawyers said on Friday that he would not attend the trial, and Ivory Coast has refused to extradite him.

She said, “this trial is needed so that the culture of impunity and violence that still rages in many African countries, despite the democratic facade, stops indefinitely.”

Other suspects in the murder of Sankara include; Hyacinthe Kafando (Compaore’s former head of security), Gen. Gilbert Diendere, a former spy-master.

According to details, the hearing was held in the Ouaga2000 conference centre in the capital, Ouagadougou. Twelve other defendants appeared at the hearing and all pleaded not guilty.

The military tribunal opened the proceedings, then adjourned the hearing until Oct. 25, after defence lawyers asked for more time to prepare their case, court officials said.

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