Augmenting the Publics’ Knowledge on the Health Effects of Aflatoxin is Key to its Elimination from the Groundnut Chain in Sub Saharan Africa: An Opinion Editorial

Authors: Limbikani Matumba[1], Kerstin Hell[2], Benoit Gnonlonfin3, Mweshi Mukanga4, and Henry Njapau5


Groundnut is an important crop, economically and nutritionally in the Tropics and Subtropics. However, it is one of the most susceptible hosts for certain pathogenic fungi resulting in aflatoxin contamination. Long-term exposure to aflatoxin increases the risk of liver cancer, compromises immunity and interferes with protein metabolism and multiple micronutrients that are critical to health. Importantly, there is substantial evidence that aflatoxins increase the rate of progression from HIV infection to AIDS.


To protect citizens from the harmful effects of aflatoxins, most governments have established regulatory limits for the toxin in food including groundnuts. However this control strategy works principally in countries with a developed quality control system. Developing countries including Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have different trade practices which make the implementation of aflatoxin regulations inherently difficult. Moreover, most SSA countries lack resources for the implementation of aflatoxin regulation,  besides having favorable ecologies for toxin development. Consequently, the aflatoxin health burden is comparatively higher in developing countries. Most economies in SSA countries are predominantly agricultural-based and regulatory requirements are only met on export crops while foods on local/domestic markets are largely uncontrolled risking the health safety of the local consumers. This reductionist approach has left a large fraction of the population of SSA including the groundnuts value chain players ignorant of the health effects of aflatoxins. It is therefore not surprising that 20-30 years after inception of numerous aflatoxin control/mitigation projects in the region, the majority of consumers continue to be exposed to aflatoxin.


It is worth stressing that extensive research work has been carried out and several aflatoxin control and management strategies do exist. These are good agricultural practice, including crop rotation, timely planting, use of agro-ecologically adapted varieties, proper disease and pest management including the use of bio-control agents, breeding for resistance, timely harvesting, proper moisture control, proper cleaning and sorting, improved storage and processing. However, implementation of these sometimes labor intensive techniques demands increased public awareness on the health risk associated with consuming aflatoxin  contaminated food, so that inconsequence intermediate and end-users would be ready to pay a higher price for better quality. Moreover knowledgeable farmers are likely to ensure safety of their own food and in the process make the whole production chain safer and facilitate trade of high quality produce. In this regard, we strongly recommend that future aflatoxin control and mitigation efforts should ensure that all foodstuffs, including those sold in local/domestic markets, are safe. Key to such programs would be capacitating key players with the knowledge of the health impact of aflatoxin to buttress a campaign for the adoption of efficient technologies to reduce toxins from seed to consumption.

[1] Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (NRC campus), Food Technology and Nutrition Group, P.O Box 143, Lilongwe (

[2] International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, P.O. Box 08-0932, Cotonou, Benin (

3 Catholic University of Eastern Africa, P.O. Box 62157, 00200 Nairobi, Kenya (

4Zambia Agriculture Research Institute, P.O. Box 350007, Chilanga, Zambia (

5National Institute for Scientific and Industrial Research, P.O. Box 310158, Lusaka, Zambia (


The Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), celebrates the International Women’s Day – 8 March 2016. We pay special tribute to all the women in the agricul…



The Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), celebrates the International Women’s Day – 8 March 2016. We pay special tribute to all the women in the agriculture sector who remain committed, focussed and enduring to feed their families, communities, nations and the world. The gender statistics in the sector remain glaringly unbalanced as climate change and malnutrition continue to challenge households. It is pertinent that Africa understand these challenges when addressing agriculture. This sector remains one of the important economic generators for the continent contributing 25% of the continent’s GDP. This accounts for over 60 percent of African citizens rely on agriculture. Women make up almost 50% of the agricult ural labour force in Sub-Saharan Africa. A total of 62% of economically active women in Africa work in agriculture, making it the largest employer of women. In some countries, such as Rwanda, Malawi and Burkina Faso, over 90% of economically active women are involved in agriculture (AfDB, 2015).


We as FANRPAN have played our role in confirming why women are the cornerstone of African agriculture. From 2009-2012, we implemented the Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM) project in Malawi and Mozambique. WARM focussed on strengthening women farmers’ ability to advocate for appropriate DSC_0051.JPGagricultural policies and programmes through access to knowledge, technology, credit, better seeds, fertiliser and other inputs. Three key learnings emerged from the project: (i) creating platforms for community dialogues that involve both women and men by allowing the voicing of community issues; (ii) giving women the voice through engaging policy champions that translate the women’s perspective in forums; and (iii) action research that trains researchers to be more sensitive to the community needs, especially of women farmers.


Fast forward 2015, lessons learnt and ready to step a notch higher, FANRPAN engaged in another programme –   Agriculture to Nutrition (ATONU): Improving Nutrition Outcomes Through Optimized Agricultural Investments. This is a six-year project focussing on what agriculture can do for nutrition.   Specific focus is on rural smallholder households, especially women of child-bearing age and young children in the first 1000 days of life after conception. This is where the high nutritional demands of pregnancy, development and early childhood must largely be met through food grown, or income earned, on family farms.


ATONU is a deliberate conversation, action and undertaking that deals with the agriculture and nutrition nexus. It asks the question of what can agriculture do for nutrition? This nexus addresses key challenges and provides solutions for – malnutrition, under nutrition, stunting and, at the economic level addresses a loss of as much 8 percent in GDP in some countries due to unproductive citizenry. Simply stated, we need healthy mothers to produce healthy babies and healthy babies to become productive citizens. ATONU represents a win-win situation for the women. Because nutrition is multi-sectoral in approach, for the first time, we place the women in the centre and ask the following questions– What can we learn from the health sector? What is the relationships between health, agriculture and nutrition? The women become the centre of this transformation.


Of equal importance, as we celebrate today, is that FANRPAN projects such as WARM and ATONU speak a multidimensional language, not only the status of women in one particular sector but resonate across others. Research has shown that unless gender imbalances are addressed, humanity will not embrace the power and collective effort of addressing emerging challenges on our planet. Melinda Gates in Our 2016 Annual Letter talks about – More Time – “Globally, women spend an average of 4.5 hours a day on unpaid work. Men spend less than half that much time. But the fact is that the burden of unpaid work falls heaviest on women in poor countries, where the hours are longer and the gap between women and men is wider.” Time is something we can never get back, it simply goes. By not recognising the time women spend to make everyday lives normal realities, it is unrealistic for the world to expect women to become more productive. Irrespective of economic status, race or geographic location, this one challenge of time, if addressed globally, is a resource for all of us, freeing women to put energies into other tasks. No matter how good we draft our policies or design implementation frameworks, we need to address these underlying imbalances to harvest humanity’s full potential. We know what needs to be done and we should just do it.

Era of Processes for Youths in Agriculture: Lessons from the FANRPAN 2013 Policy Dialogue

Download: Lessons from the 2013 FANRPAN Policy Dialogue

Young people from across Africa stole the show at the 2013 Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Annual High-Level Regional Multi-stakeholder Policy Dialogue held in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho from 2nd-5th September 2013.

The theme for the Policy Dialogue was Climate Smart Agriculture, a timely theme given the pressing challenges resulting from the changing climate. However, it was the Youth Day that “made” the dialogue and ingrained memories sure to last a life time in participants’ present and virtual, following through various social media platforms.

The focus on youth day was not only on FANRPAN Youth in Agriculture projects but also on exciting agriculture initiatives driven by the youth and some lessons from beyond Africa.

FANRPAN Celebrates International Youth Day

12 August each year is a day dedicated to celebrating efforts of the world’s youth in enhancing global society.  It is a day meant to promote ways to engage Youth in becoming more actively involved in making positive contributions to their communities.

This year FANRPAN is celebrating International Youth Day by showcasing exciting agriculture initiatives spearheaded by the youth. The FANRPAN website and Facebook page will be used to profile young people who are involved in the agriculture sector. Please share with us profiles of your projects, short video clips, songs, pictures and anything else that can showcase youth in agriculture.  We would love to receive short blogs that we can run throughout the month as we continue with the celebrations.

On the 12th of August will run a one hour forum on Facebook discussing the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) where all your questions on CAADP will be answered. Also join the conversation on twitter @fanrpan using the hashtag #YouthDay2013. Spread the word!

One lucky contributor will receive sponsorship to participate and address delegates at the upcoming FANRPAN High Level Regional Food Security Policy Dialogue to be held in Maseru, Lesotho on 2 to 5 September under the theme “Climate Smart Agriculture”. Entries close on the 13th of August 2013.

For more information on FANRPAN’s work on youth engagement in agriculture visit