IITA partners with A-Z Textile Mills Limited on AflasafeTM in Tanzania

28 February 2020

In 2019, after a series of rigorous engagement with the private sector, followed by a competitive bidding process, A-Z Textile Mills Ltd was selected and granted a license to manufacture and distribute Aflasafe in Tanzania.

IITA signed a 5-year Technology Transfer and Licensing Agreement (TTLA) with A-Z Textile Mills Limited in May 2019 for Aflasafe TZ01 manufacturing, marketing, and distribution in Tanzania. This License arrangement is expected to achieve impact by allowing the product to reach the intended beneficiaries. Aflasafe remains available to public sector for research and development activities within Tanzania and also available in the event of a food security emergency in furtherance of the CGIAR vison.

Following years of painstaking scientific work by IITA and partners to develop aflatoxin biocontrol products tailored for different countries in Africa and firmly establish their efficacy, several country-specific Aflasafe products are now ready to be manufactured and distributed to farmers at scale. Aflasafe TZ01 is one of the Tanzanian biocontrol products, developed by IITA and the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Aflatoxin Reduction in Crops Laboratory at the University of Arizona, together with the Ministry of Agriculture. The product reduces aflatoxin content in treated maize and groundnut by 80% – 99% from farm to fork.

The initial idea of the technology was developed by the USDA-ARS. The technology was adapted and improved for use in Africa by IITA, USDA-ARS and several national partners. The genetic material of Aflasafe TZ01 (i.e., the non-toxin producing strains of Aspergillus flavus) came from Tanzanian soil, and maize and groundnut crops. During 2012 & 2013, a team of IITA and national partners (Ministry of Agriculture in Tanzania, Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority, Sokoine University of Agriculture and Tropical Pesticide Research Institute) collected the crop samples from various parts of the country. From more than 5,000 strains of A. flavus isolated from these samples during 2013, four strains were selected as the active ingredient of Aflasafe TZ01 after meticulous testing. All nontoxic strains of A. flavus are conserved on silica gel for long term storage in IITA Lab. These collections of microorganisms are part of IITA’s collection of microorganisms, and a duplicate set is conserved in USDA-ARS lab in Tucson, Arizona.

IITA is the official registration holder of Aflasafe TZ01 in Tanzania, granted by the Tropical Pesticides Research Institute. IITA, USDA-ARS, and the Ministry of Agriculture of the United Republic of Tanzania, are the co-developers of the technology. A plant/ factory to produce Aflasafe TZ01 and a distribution network are necessary for making Aflasafe TZ01 readily accessible to farmers.

The Aflasafe Technology Transfer and Commercialization (ATTC) Program funded jointly by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is designed to carefully and efficiently identify strategic options for partnership with private companies or government entities, execute those partnerships and help ensure the products reach millions of farmers

A-Z Textile Mills Limited is a company incorporated in Tanzania which holds the “AgroZ” umbrella brand for all products targeting the agricultural market, notably their patented hermetic storage bag. The exclusivity granted by IITA to A-Z in Tanzania for 5 years creates incentives and reduces the risks for the company to make the significant investments required in the market development and in the development of a manufacturing plant capable of producing at scale.

A-Z has formulated a five-year plan to invest USD 1.5 million in the commercialization of Aflasafe TZ01 in the country. In September 2020, A-Z completed the construction of the manufacturing plant in Arusha and it also successfully completed the first production at the A-Z Aflasafe factory with 8 MT manufactured to supply the local market. IITA provided technical support by training all the staff of the company in the entire manufacturing process.

IITA is supporting A-Z to develop a partnership with the public sector and other development partners. Specifically, IITA facilitated the relationship between A-Z and the Tanzania Initiative for Aflatoxin Prevention and Control (TANIPAC) a five-year project (2018–2023) jointly funded by the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), the African Development Bank (AfDB), and the Government of Tanzania. As part of this collaboration, A-Z conducted national Aflasafe awareness and set up Aflasafe distribution points in preparation for the season commencing in November 2020. At the same time, the marketing team has put in place radio campaigns targeting specific regions as guided by the cropping calendar to step up awareness of Aflasafe and promote usage.