AflaSTOP

Storage and Drying for Aflatoxin Prevention

Working to Combat Aflatoxin in Kenya

Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring, highly toxic substance from strains of the aspergillus fungus, which is widespread in the soils of sub Saharan Africa. The invisible toxin is known to cause cancer, and contributes to immune-system suppression, growth retardation, liver disease, and death in both humans and domestic animals. Aflatoxin threatens agricultural development and food security in sub-Saharan Africa because it affects many important food crops, the most economically significant of which are maize and ground nuts. Maize in Kenya and many other parts of Africa is already contaminated when it is harvested, and the fungus continues to grow during storage despite farmers’ attempts to properly dry and store their maize.

The AflaSTOP: Storage and Drying for Aflatoxin Prevention (AflaSTOP) project was initiated in pursuit of a post-harvest solution to the widespread negative impacts of aflatoxins. Efforts were focused in Kenya, with the hope that a successful solution can be modeled for aflatoxin control in other parts of Africa. The project consisted of the following key activities:

Key Activity 1 - Identify commercially viable small-scale storage technology that prevents further aflatoxin contamination. This activity had an off-farm testing phase and an on-farm testing phase.

Key Activity 2 - Identify commercially viable drying technology suitable for smallholder farmers

Key Activity 3 - Commercialization of project technology

Key Activity 4 - Synthesize and distribute lessons learned

Key Activity 5 - Expand technology to different countries

Over the course of five years, AflaSTOP linked scientifically rigorous research with human-centric design grounded in marketplace realities to identify and develop the most promising storage and drying technologies that smallholder farmers can use to arrest the growth of aflatoxins. The project also worked to ensure that these solutions are accessible in terms of being commercially available, affordable, user-friendly, and through communication and education, attractive to smallholder famers.

Storage: Using scientific testing of storage devices in controlled conditions and the largest field trial to date with smallholder farmers, AflaSTOP established hermetic storage as an effective way to control the growth of aflatoxin levels in maize during storage.  The project then conducted economic and farmer behavior studies to identify an existing small-scale hermetic storage technology, the PICS bag, as the most suitable hermetic storage option for smallholder farmers to adopt. Hermetic storage is now being promoted throughout East Africa with projects collaborating with private sector suppliers to match outreach with availability of product.

 

Drying: Existing research on the importance of storage to aflatoxin control established that in order to store maize well, the moisture level should be below 13.5%. However, many farmers struggle to dry their maize to 14 or 15% under favorable conditions. AflaSTOP designed, locally manufactured, and piloted through commercial markets the EasyDry M500, a portable maize dryer capable of lowering the moisture levels to maximize the effectiveness of hermetic storage. Early on, the project considered marketplace realities like farmers’ economics and the existing services they access to establish that informal artisan fabricators are the most economically viable manufacturers of the EasyDry M500. AflaSTOP then identified service provision models that would make drying most accessible. The EasyDry M500 can be incorporated into a farmer’s normal post-harvest routine as a fee-based service, which creates the opportunity for off-farm agriculture jobs. The EasyDry M500 has been endorsed by the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization, and is being tested in Uganda and Ghana.  As of March 2017, it has been piloted in Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda, and ranked 4th amongst hundreds of applicants in the First All-Africa Post Harvest Technologies and Innovation Challenge. A website, www.easydry.org, has been set up to enable public access to manufacturing and operator resources as well as promotional materials, and provide updates on commercialization progress beyond the life of this project.

AflaSTOP was implemented by ACDI/VOCA and Agribusiness Systems International, under the direction of Meridian Institute and in support of the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA). AflaSTOP was funded through a Global Development Alliance between USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). The AflaSTOP final report is available at:

 

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