EAST AFRICA – The East African Community (EAC) is seeking Sh20 million (US$194,000) financing from US government to facilitate the crafting of a legal framework to guide the fight against cancer-causing toxins threatening the region’s food security.
According to a report by Business Daily, the legal framework — EAC Aflatoxin Bill — which has been submitted to USAid for review is intended to guide the six-member bloc in combating aflatoxin.
It is estimated that Kenyan farmers lose up to 30 percent of their produce to aflatoxin attack.
Fahari Marwa, principal agriculture economist at the EAC, said the response to the request has so far been good “and we expect to get the funding soon” to fast-track the enactment of the law in the next two years.
Lack of provisions on aflatoxin management in the existing policy and regulatory framework, the official said, has impacted negatively on the fight against the threat.
Having a law in place will be instrumental, he said.
“This is a massive project that requires funding and we have already approached USAid for funding assistance,” said Mr Marwa.
Mr Marwa spoke during the stakeholders meeting meant to review implementation of the EAC strategy and action plan on aflatoxin control.
The meeting, which has also taken place in other member States, is aimed at coming up with measures to curb the effects of aflatoxin.
EAC pointed out that financial challenges have become one of the major constraints to coming up with the mechanisms to combat aflatoxin that has seen some member States stop maize coming in because of high levels of this disease-causing fungi.
In 2017, EAC council of ministers passed that each member State set aside funds for implementing a strategy to keep aflatoxin at bay.
The bloc has agreed on the use of Aflasafe, which is currently being manufactured in Kenya.
The new technology has been achieved after intensive research work of over 15 years and great partnership between The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), with the support of United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Beginning of the year the government contracted a biological crop protection company, Koppert Biological Systems to distribute the anti-aflatoxin farm input to all farmers in the country.
Some of the major aflatoxin hotspots in the country include Meru, Makueni, Machakos, Kitui, Tharaka-Nithi, Taita Taveta, Tana River, Kwale and Kajiado.
Aflasafe KE01, if applied to maize three weeks before flowering, reduces chances of aflatoxin attack by 70 percent.
Kenya was the first country to adopt it in East Africa and the second in Africa after Nigeria.
Other EAC countries that have opened a manufacturing plant for Aflasafe are Tanzania and Rwanda, the latter at the tail end of putting up one.