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Maize can be poisonous – foods with high aflatoxin content, caused by the fungus Aspergillus section Flavi, can cause acute liver cirrhosis and death, while sublethal chronic exposure may cause cancer, stunting in children, immune system suppression and impaired food conversion. Animal productivity is also affected when feeds contain high aflatoxin levels.

To help farmers minimize aflatoxin contamination in food value chains, the Africa RISING project has been making Aflasafe, a biocontrol product, commercially available to farmers in Ghana and Zambia. Aflasafe contains native, nontoxic Aspergillus flavus fungi that compete with the toxic fungi and reduce aflatoxin levels in maize and groundnut. Initially developed by the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS) and deployed in the USA, Aflasafe has been adapted and refined for Africa over a decade of research and development, through a partnership led by IITA working with USDA-ARS and many national partners in countries across the continent.

Working with national partners in both countries, IITA with support from Africa RISING and other partners developed four Aflasafe biocontrol products specifically for Ghana (Aflasafe GH01 and GH02) and Zambia (Aflasafe ZM01and ZM02). These products have been tested with smallholder farmers on their farms, with impressive results – in both countries the Aflasafe products reduced aflatoxin contamination in maize and groundnut by 90–99%. This is welcome news for farmers – as well as knowing their food is safe, they can now sell their products to export markets with strict aflatoxin regulations, such as the European Union.

Results have been submitted to the regulatory agencies in Ghana and Zambia for registration of the Aflasafe products and it is anticipated that both products will gain full registration early in 2018. IITA is currently in the process of identifying key partners for production, commercialization and use of the Aflasafe products in Ghana and Zambia at scale, as part of the Aflasafe Technology Transfer and Commercialization Project funded by USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Partners: IITA; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology; USDA–ARS; Zambia National Institute for Scientific and Industrial Research; ZARI

This news is part of our Partner Spotlight on Africa RISING. The aim of the program is to transform agricultural systems through sustainable intensification of mixed crop livestock systems, a key pathway towards better food security, improved livelihoods and a healthy environment. The program comprises three regional research-for-development projects, led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (in West Africa and East and Southern Africa) and the International Livestock Research Institute (in the Ethiopian Highlands). The International Food Policy Research Institute leads the program’s monitoring and evaluation project. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supports the program as part of the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative.

GFAR Secretariat is turning the spotlight on the work and collective actions of Partners in GFAR who share in our mission to strengthen and transform agri-food research and innovation systems globally. Not a GFAR partner yet? Join now!