By Kebba AF Touray
The Ministries of Health and Agriculture in collaboration with the National Research Institute (NARI) and the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA), have commenced a two day information sharing workshop on Aflatoxin Mitigation in Foni Bwiam. The workshop aims to share ideas on Aflatoxin with a view to mitigating its problems in society.
Ndey Naffie Ceesay of PACA, said the group is working out ways through advocacy, to have the challenges of Aflatoxin addressed. She cited rice, maize and groundnut as the major crops affected by the fungus.
“PACA has been here since 2012 after the realization that Gambians have a limited knowledge and awareness of Gambians from farm level to Policy level on what Aflatoxin is. So it was deemed important to Select Gambia as one of the pilot projects, to help the people in what they consume and policy makers towards ending Aflatoxin”, she noted.
She said they decided the health aspect as their top priority; that the fungus has a negative impact on the citizenry with respect to liver cancer, malnutrition and stunting in adults and children.
“So it is important that this information reaches the citizenry, with a view to mitigating Aflatoxin in the country,” she noted.
Dr. Faye Manneh said Aflatoxin is a poison produced by a fungi called Aspergillus Flavus; that the fungus affects crops most especially maize, rice, seasame and groundnut among others; that 60% of the groundnuts produced in the Gambia is affected by Aflatoxin and as such reduces the market value of the crop.
“Aflatoxin is produced when the Aspergillus fungus attacks grains. The prevalence of Aflatoxin is aggravated by drought, pests, delayed harvest, insufficient drying and poor postharvest handling. The fungus grows best at the temperatures between 25 to 30 degrees Celsius,” he said.
He said Aflatoxin causes liver cancer, supresses the immune system and retards growth in children; that it can be reduced through good cultural practices and biological control products called “Asflasafe”, proper storage mechanism, and the use of good quality seeds among others, as preventive measures.
Participants hailed stakeholders for the initiative and called for attitudinal change in making sure that the knowledge gained is shared among their communities, to ensure the successful eradication of Aflatoxin in the country.