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Support for Innovative Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa  funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Department for International Development of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (DfID)

Posted:  February 23, 2012

Media Contacts: 
Barbara Stinson, Senior Partner
bstinson@merid.org
+1 303-670-5161

Rex Raimond, Senior Mediator and Program Manager
rraimond@merid.org
+1 720-328-3380

Washington, DC, February 23, 2012 –Meridian Institute announces $19.8 million in new funding from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and $1.6 million USD from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID) to support the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA). Through the leadership of the African Union Commission (AUC), and with interest from African and other governments, Regional Economic Communities, the private sector, and civil society leaders from across Africa, a comprehensive, Africa-wide approach to aflatoxin control is being established. This partnership will complement efforts to help small farmers lift themselves out of poverty by advancing projects to control aflatoxin contamination, improve food quality, and increase farmers’ access to markets.  

Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring, but highly toxic, substance caused by fungi. The toxin is linked to liver disease and cancer and associated with immune-system suppression, growth retardation, and death in both humans and domestic animals. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 25% of world food crops are affected by aflatoxin, and countries that are situated between 40ºN and 40ºS of the equator all around the globe are most at risk. While aflatoxin control measures are implemented in developed and international markets, many of the 1 billion people who live on less than $1 per day rely on their own agricultural production for their food and livelihoods, which can contain harmful levels of aflatoxin. 

PACA aims to adapt proven solutions, and identify new ones, that will work for smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Comprehensive solutions will be developed, addressing the health, nutrition, trade, and agricultural impacts of aflatoxin.  Solutions will include effective measures to control aflatoxin along the value chain, from crop production to processing, and food preparation to consumption.  For instance, native strains of beneficial fungi have been shown to dramatically reduce the prevalence of aflatoxin in the field and in storage. Proper drying and storage can help further control aflatoxin. Many other measures can be taken to reduce aflatoxin exposure to local consumers and improve opportunities to sell aflatoxin-safe crops to markets, but measures need to be supported by appropriate policy and regulatory actions.  It is expected that comprehensive and feasible solutions being developed for the African small farmer context will also be useful for other regions where aflatoxin is a problem. 

“In response to the threat of aflatoxin to consumers and economies in Africa, the 7th Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program's (CAADP) Partnership Platform (PP) in 2011 underscored the need to address aflatoxin control and other sanitary and phyto-sanitary challenges in a holistic and integrated manner. We are pleased that the AUC and the NEPAD Agency are taking action to establish an Africa-led Partnership for Aflatoxin Control, as decided in the CAADP PP meeting," said H.E Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union Commission.

“If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty, and they have made life better for billions of people. The international agriculture community needs to be more innovative, coordinated and focused to really be effective in helping poor farmers grow more. If we can do that, we can dramatically reduce suffering, and build self-sufficiency.”  This grant to support the PACA is one of seven grants Gates announced today in Rome at the Thirty-fifth Session of the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. This announcement, nearly $200 million in grants, brings the foundation’s total commitment to agriculture to more than $2 billion since the program began in 2006.   

The U.S. supports the African-led PACA effort through Feed the Future, President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative. This includes a $12 million commitment, announced at the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum in June 2011, for aflatoxin control projects in Africa. The U.S. will also collaborate closely with Meridian Institute and the International Institute on Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to continue and expand application of beneficial fungi developed by USDA scientists. These beneficial fungi competitively exclude toxic fungi to control aflatoxin in the soil where it starts and prevent the spread of aflatoxin through the post harvest storage, transport, and processing stages, ensuring the safety of food for consumers. This technology is used commercially in the United States, and strains native to African countries have proven effective in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We are enthusiastic to support the plans for this innovative partnership that were developed during the AU-convened PACA Workshop in October in Nairobi, Kenya. The guidance resulting from these discussions offered an excellent path forward, and we look forward to working with African leaders to help improve food security in Africa,” said Barbara Stinson, Senior Partner of Meridian Institute and one of the project’s co-directors.

“As a non-profit organization, working as a neutral convener world-wide on some of society’s most challenging issues, we look forward to supporting the development of PACA and working with African leadership to support critical projects that will control the spread of aflatoxin contamination in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Rex Raimond, Senior Mediator at Meridian and project co-director.

For more information about Meridian Institute and its support of PACA, please visit: http://www.merid.org/aflatoxinpartnership.aspx