- On December 31, 2014
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Farmers in the Brong Ahafo region have commended government and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) for their effort in the fight against Aflatoxin but urges government to step it’s effort up further in order to stem its effect on crops drastically.
Speaking at a workshop attended by smallholder farmers, food sellers, agro processors and other players in the agriculture value chain in Techiman, Mr. Fred Asante of the Brong Ahafo Regional Office of the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture mentioned that the fight to control aflatoxin contamination of key staple foods in Ghana has been stepped up in the Brong Ahafo Region.
Trained staffs are expected to pass on the knowledge to farmers on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
Asante revealed that the Ministry in collaboration with Plantwise/CABI has set up Plant Health Clinics in Asunafo North, Dormaa Municipality, Kintampo Municipality Tano North and South districts, and Techiman Municipality.
He is quoted as saying, “these are good initiatives which have helped farmers to improve food security and improve rural livelihoods by reducing crop losses to pest and diseases.”
On his part, Daniel Adotey, a Programme Officer at SEND-GHANA, the project lead organisation, said inadequate pre and post-harvest management practices among small-holder farmers lead to the high and unacceptable levels of mycotoxins in maize and contribute greatly to the high statistics of stunted growth in children under five.
Notwithstanding the facts about the destructive nature of the fungus, aflatoxins have not attracted much attention from policy makers and implemented in Ghana due to lack of targeted advocacy and public awareness.
Whiles commending the Ministry of Food and Agriculture for the efforts made so far, Adotey called for a multi-sectoral and multi-faceted approach for efficient monitoring, surveillance and cost-effective measures for control and prevention of aflatoxins contamination in food and feed products along the value chain in the Ghana.
The workshop was organised by ECASARD in collaboration with SEND-GHANA with funding from the Southern Africa Trust under a project dubbed “Deepening linkages between Research, Advocacy and Media practitioners in Ghana for greater policy influence and impact II”
According to Dr. King David Amoah, the National Coordinator of ECASARD, the advocacy partners for the project notes that millions of people living in the country consume high and unsafe levels of Aflatoxin through their diets on a daily basis and it pose adverse health and economic effects along the food production and supply value chain, undermining efforts to improve nutrition, enhance agricultural production and minimizes economic gains from agricultural products, especially for small scale farmers.
The Brong Ahafo Region, a major maize producing region in Ghana is one of the hotspots of aflatoxin contamination as it has all the right conditions that the natural occurring fungi that produce aflatoxins thrive in.
This has led to the destruction of hundreds of bags of grains to the dismay of resource poor and also often, food insecure small-holder farmers leading to huge losses of much-needed income and food, and trade and health consequences.
Ghana has prioritized the realization of the Millennium Development Goals of reducing by half the number of people suffering from hunger by the year 2015. While this effort requires a significant increase in the production and quality of food, food safety issues resulting from aflatoxin contamination present a number of formidable challenges. Aflatoxins are toxic metabolites produced by fungal species during their growth under favorable conditions of temperature and moisture. The main cereals affected are maize, sorghum, rice and wheat and other crops like groundnuts and cassava.
Agricultural products contaminated with aflatoxins pose a major threat to human and animal health. Aflatoxin-contaminated agricultural products have a relatively low market value and are sometimes destroyed depending on the levels of contamination.