The USDA announced that it is committing $12 million for aflatoxin control in Africa. The announcement was made during the tenth annual Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum in Lusaka, Zambia. The funds will support the objective of the African-led Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA).
Dr. Julie Howard, deputy coordinator for development for Feed the Future, confirmed the commitment during a plenary session on food security at the forum. “This investment will boost the PACA’s ability to mitigate the dangerous consequences aflatoxin presents to both consumers and to African economies,” said Howard. “Aflatoxin control is also paramount to ensuring global food security efforts are successful and sustainable, which is a major objective of Feed the Future.”
Scientifically known as Aspergillus flavus and commonly referred to as “killer maize,” aflatoxin is a highly poisonous cancer-causing toxin produced by a fungus, which, according to the United Nations, affects 25% of the world’s agricultural production. The fungus infects crops before harvest in the field and spreads as a result of poor drying and storage, particularly in maize and groundnuts, which are highly susceptible. An estimated 4.5 billion people in the developing world are chronically exposed to dangerous levels of aflatoxin through diet, which contributes to chronic health problems and food insecurity. Animals fed with contaminated feed have low productivity, while major agricultural commodities containing aflatoxin above permissible limits are often denied formal trade opportunities.
In response to the threat of aflatoxin in Africa, government, private sector and civil society leaders from across Africa endorsed a comprehensive, sub-Saharan-wide approach to aflatoxin control through the establishment of the PACA in March 2011 during the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program’s (CAADP) Partnership Platform. The PACA is focused on improving food security, public health, and trade in Africa and works through CAADP to raise awareness and create an effective regulatory environment; better coordinate existing efforts to control aflatoxin; and increase investments in agricultural extension, management, and scale up of effective mitigation activities.
This effort will draw upon the long history of the U.S. government research, including bio-control methods that have successfully prevented high levels of aflatoxin contamination in maize and peanuts in the United States and Nigeria, as well as crop management and post-harvest technology programs implemented across Africa.
The $12 million investment will link directly with country-driven priorities to help countries sustainably transform their own agricultural systems, which is a key objective of Feed the Future, the U.S. global hunger and food security initiative. It will also leverage commitments from other donor and stakeholder groups to support PACA’s leadership in aflatoxin control.
Upon the announcement of the $12 million commitment, Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission, thanked the U.S. Government and other partners for their support of the PACA.
“The U.S. commitment will enable PACA to advance growth and prosperity in Africa,” she said. “This commitment, along with ongoing support from other important partners including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, signals that the global community recognizes the importance of aflatoxin control efforts on public health, nutrition and food security.”
Commissioner Peace also noted that African Union intends to support aflatoxin mitigation activities in collaboration with its Member States and Regional Economic Communities to spur healthier trade and consumption patterns within Africa. Two critical goals for African agriculture, she said, are to significantly increase production and supply of safe food staples within Africa and to explore new solutions for aflatoxin control to boost African Agriculture's trade potential.