Cancer-causing aflatoxins are highly toxic fungal chemicals that suppress the immune system, stunt growth, and cause liver disease and death in both humans and domestic animals. Aflatoxin contamination is a serious food safety issue affecting sub-Saharan Africa, and its management is imperative to making healthy crops.

Bringing an aflatoxin breakthrough to Africa

As part of the Business Incubation Platform and with a number of other global agencies, IITA has introduced aflasafeTM, a biocontrol product that drastically reduces aflatoxin contamination in maize and groundnuts. This breakthrough technology, originally developed by the USDA-ARS, is already widely used in the US. IITA, in partnership with the USDA, has successfully adapted this technology for use in Nigeria using native micro-flora, developing the biocontrol product aflasafe™.

AflasafeTM reduces aflatoxins during both crop growth and postharvest storage, as well as throughout the value chain process. The product uses the native nontoxic strains of the fungus that do not produce aflatoxin to naturally outcompete their aflatoxin-producing cousins. Field-testing of aflasafe™ in Nigeria over the past four years has produced extremely positive results. Aflatoxin contamination of maize and groundnut was consistently reduced by between 80 and 90%, and even as high as 99%. This increases crop values by at least 5% while addressing this serious food safety issue.

Native nontoxic strains have also been isolated from Kenya, and are ready for further evaluation to develop into a product. Once this technology is successfully tested and commercialized, it will be replicated beyond Nigeria and Kenya to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa.

This technology is particularly effective in the African context because it addresses the source of aflatoxin, the fungus in the soil, before it can contaminate the crop preharvest. Adapting and applying this solution to address aflatoxin contamination in Africa will dramatically improve the health and livelihoods of millions of families while reducing commodity losses due to contamination.