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aflasafe™ opens a window of opportunity for private investment

By Godwin AtseR

Biological control of aflatoxins using aflasafe™ has rekindled hopes for a brighter future for African farmers as the continent battles food contamination.

The technology, which uses 'good fungus' to fight the 'bad ones', had provided relief to hundreds of maize farmers in northern Nigeria—a region where more than 70 percent of the population depend on agriculture as a source of livelihood.

Last year alone, participating farmers in field trials using aflasafe™ reduced contamination by about 80 percent, according to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.

Consequently, results from efficacy tests of the product have opened a window of opportunity for the private sector to tap into.

According to IITA Plant Pathologist, Dr. Ranajit Bandyopadhyay; and CGIAR SP-IPM) Coordinator, Dr. Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon, with an initial investment outlay of between $1 and $3 million in an aflasafe™ manufacturing plant, investors are likely to reap about $133,000 (N20 million) annually.

Bandyopadhyay said that an investment in an aflasafe™ manufacturing plant in Nigeria would pay off considering the huge demand for quality maize in the country.

His estimates showed that over 60 percent of harvested maize in Nigeria currently has high levels of aflatoxins and are prone to being rejected by the feed industry.

“This makes investment in this technology a viable option, not only for profit but also to improve the health of the people,” he added.

Produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus, aflatoxins pose barriers to domestic and international trade of maize and peanuts in sub-Saharan Africa because of contaminated grains.

Worse still, the contaminated grains have carcinogenic properties that endanger both humans and animals.

“Aflatoxin contamination in grains is a major problem but is unknown to many farmers. When it attacks, some farmers assume it to be a 'spiritual attack',” said Dr. Dotun Oladele, a Senior Laboratory Technology Manager with Animal Care Consults during a UNIDO-convened meeting with the private sector in Lagos that offered IITA the chance to introduce aflasafe™.

“Once there is aflatoxicosis, egg production drops and mortality of birds follows,” he added.

He said the approach by IITA might be the best method of controlling aflatoxins.

Representatives of local investors under the aegis of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) Business Group commended the technology and promised to sell the business model to their members with a view to finding an investor.

“We know of a lot of people that will be interested in this technology and that have the capability to galvanize this idea into manufacturing,” said Dr. A.A. Roberts, Executive Secretary/ Chief Executive Officer, NEPAD Business Group-Nigeria.