The mention of aflatoxin contamination often brings in mind maize, especially because it is this grain that is associated with food security, and therefore, receives a lot of attention. However, aflatoxin affects other value chains as well, resulting to health risks among consumers, business loss along the value chains and other negative impacts.
Recently, European Union (EU)- supported MARKUP Kenya, worked with experts in carrying out a research on aflatoxin management along the groundnuts, macadamia nuts, herbs and spices value chains. Titled ‘Aflatoxin Management and Control in Groundnuts, Macadamia Nuts, Herbs and Spices in Kenya’, the research aims at promoting food safety and market competitiveness in selected fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs and spices value chains.
“This report aims at contributing to the development of food safety control measures in groundnuts, macadamia nuts, herbs and spices targeting control of aflatoxins contamination for Consumer Protection and Safe Trade. This will be achieved through awareness creation about aflatoxins and enhancing technical capabilities of relevant agencies to develop mechanisms for management of aflatoxins in groundnuts, macadamia nuts, herbs and spices,” reads the report in part.
The research was carried out in seven counties. For Nakuru and Kajiado, the focus was on herbs and spices, while Bungoma and Embu drew interest in macadamia, while groundnuts were the value chains of focus in Busia, Homabay and Siaya. The value chains were selected in tandem with MARKUP Kenya’s counties of implementation and value chains of focus.
Aflatoxin Management and Control in Groundnuts
According to the research’s findings, a third (32%) of the value chain actors along the groundnuts value chain had encountered aflatoxin contamination in groundnuts or in the course of execution of their duties with the highest percentage (48%) in Siaya County.
In their own assessment, majority of the respondents rated their level of knowledge on aflatoxins as fair, while 4% of the respondents rated their level of knowledge as excellent, and 11% had no knowledge on aflatoxins at all. On further assessment however, the respondents had the wrong knowledge on aflatoxins including: that they are chemicals compounds (19%), only contaminate groundnuts post-harvest (23%), only contaminate groundnuts post-harvest (15%), are produced by bacteria (10%), and that they only contaminate groundnuts when the crop is growing in the field (6%). These views however, varied significantly across the counties.
While inadequate drying and storage in sub-optimal conditions were rated as the highest risk factors in aflatoxin contamination of groundnuts, poor handling of groundnuts during harvesting was also identified as a major challenge.
Majority (54%) of the respondents held the view that the policy and regulation agenda for Kenya’s food safety on aflatoxin management and control should be a high priority while only 4% of the respondents gave the policy and regulation agenda the lowest rating. Among the reasons for rating of policy and regulation agenda as a priority for Kenya’s food safety on aflatoxins by actors in the groundnuts value chain include; High prevalence of aflatoxin contamination of groundnuts, To enhance food safety at all levels of the value chain and To enhance food safety.
Aflatoxin Management and Control in Macadamia
For macadamia nuts, an average, 57% of the respondents had encountered aflatoxin contamination with Embu county recording a higher percentage than Bungoma.
Storage, drying, processing, roasting and harvesting were rated with the highest risk of contaminating macadamia nuts aflatoxins. On the other hand, consumers’ households, local retail markets, production, packaging and transportation were rated with the lowest risk of contamination in Embu County while production, cracking, exportation, and consumer’s household were rated with the lowest risk of contamination in Bungoma County.
On average, 70% of the value chain actors held the view that there was low level of awareness on aflatoxins among Kenyans. Significantly more respondents from Embu County held this view compared to respondents from Bungoma County.
Lack of training/raising awareness was identified as the major gap in access to information on aflatoxins, their management and applicable standards in macadamia nuts value chain. A significant proportion of the respondents identified lack of information in the local language, lack of simplified information and limited pool of trainers as the major gap.
Aflatoxin Management and Control in Herbs and Spices
For both Kajiado and Nakuru counties, storage was rated as the stage with the highest risk of contaminating herbs and spices with aflatoxins. Drying was also rated as a high-risk stage in the value chain, while production was rated as a low-risk stage.
Inadequate drying and harvesting herbs and spices when it is wet were identified as the greatest causes of the aflatoxin menace in the two value chains. Storage of herbs and spices in sub-optimal conditions and lack of knowledge on aflatoxins and their management were also identified as major challenges. Significantly more respondents from Nakuru than Kajiando County identified lack of knowledge on aflatoxins and their 114 management and high temperatures and drought during production as the causes of aflatoxins herbs and spices.
Respondents suggested various interventions for aflatoxin mitigation in herbs and spices value chains. “The interventions should focus on pre-harvest practices, post-harvest practices and handling as well as policy and regulations. Good agricultural practices, adequate and timely drying, and raising awareness on aflatoxin contamination of herbs and spices were the key corresponding interventions,” reads the report in part
The report comes with several key recommendations on aflatoxin management and control in the groundnuts, macadamia nuts, herbs and spices value chains in Kenya. Among the recommendations are; Effective communication about the aflatoxin problem and interventions in the three value chains, Policy intervention, Risk assessment to help in an informed decision on thresholds for aflatoxin levels in groundnuts, macadamia nuts, herbs and spices, Development of specific aflatoxin contamination prevention approaches along the entire value chain, Develop training manuals and build capacity, to strengthen knowledge on aflatoxins management and support control functions by key actors in the value chains, Build private sector capacity.
Following the research findings and recommendations, MARKUP Kenya will be working with relevant stakeholders to create awareness on aflatoxin management along the value chains. This is aimed at mitigating against aflatoxin infections, therefore, enhancing food safety and market access.
Image credit: International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (CC BY-NC 2.0)