Tanzania registers technology to combat aflatoxin
The eagerly awaited registration of AfasafeTZ by the Tropical Pesticides Research Institute in Tanzania has been finalized. This paves the way for the local manufacturing and commercialization of this natural, safe, and effective technology that reduces aflatoxin contamination in foods and feeds by over 80% and its associated risks to the health and lives of human beings and livestock, and negative impact on trade and incomes of smallholder farmers.
Aflatoxin is a highly toxic chemical produced by Aspergillus flavus, a common fungus which is found in soils and crop debris. A. flavus attacks crops in the field and remains even in storage.
Aflatoxin is a well-known carcinogen responsible for liver cancer and instant death in cases of acute poisoning. It also causes irreversible stunting in children and lowered body immunity. Livestock fed on contaminated feed are also affected.
AflasafeTZ is a revolutionary technology developed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Tanzania’s Ministry of Agriculture with support from USAID-Tanzania through the United States Department of Agriculture – Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS) following nearly six years of research in the country. It is made up of the Aspergillus flavus fungus too, but of strains that do not produce the toxin. These strains can effectively out-compete and displace those that produce aflatoxin, thus reducing aflatoxin contamination in maize and groundnut by 80‒90%.
“The registration of the two Aflasafe products we developed is very good news for the country. These are Aflasafe TZ01 which is region-specific and Aflasafe TZ02 which is specific to Tanzania. We have tested the efficacy of Aflasafe TZ on maize in eight districts—Chamwino, Chemba, Kibaigwa, Kilombero, Kilosa, Kiteto, Kondoa, and Kongwa and on groundnut in four districts— Kongwa, Masasi, Mpwapwa, and Nanyumbu with very promising results,” said George Mahuku, IITA plant pathologist who spearheaded the efforts.
“Biological control is a sustainable and environmentally safe approach in addressing invasive pest challenges. Registration of the Aflasafe products is therefore expected to reduce aflatoxin contamination in agricultural crops and products, thus leading to enhanced household food, nutrition and income security,” added Beatrice Pallangyo, Principal Agricultural Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture – Plant Health Services and a collaborator in the development of the product.
In anticipation of the registration, IITA and partners have already set the ball rolling on product commercialization to ensure it is widely available and accessible to the farming community under the IITA-led Aflasafe Technology Transfer and Commercialization initiative (aTTC). The project has been exploring the business opportunities available in the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of Aflasafe in the country.
The biocontrol technology was first developed by the USDA – Agriculture Research Services (USDA-ARS). IITA is working in partnership with USDA-ARS and national partners to develop nationally tailored versions of the product.