By Stanley Onyekwere
In a bid to ensure the attainment of food security, the FCT Agriculture and Rural Development Secretariat (ARDS) is to intensify efforts in creating awareness amongst residents particularly farmers on the dangers of the Aflatoxin chemical infection in food crops.
The Director of Administration and Finance of the ARDS, Mr. Ibe Prospect Chukwuemeka stated this at an interactive session with members of the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA), an advocacy group that is providing support for the adoption of proven solutions towards mitigating the impact of Aflatoxin in the quest to attain food security.
Ibe expressed concern on the increase in the rate of Aflatoxin contamination in food crops.
He stressed the need for a well-coordinated approach and collaboration with well-meaning organizations such as PACA to share ideas with relevant authorities and create awareness on Aflatoxin prevention along the value chain from crop production, to processing to preparation for consumption.
This, according to him is in addition to the dire health effects in both human and animalw; and diseases such as hepatitis, liver and lung infections have been linked to the presence of the toxins, which also causes stunted growth in children.
He added that animals that are fed with contaminated food can pass thetoxins to eggs and milk and meat.
He however disclosed that the Agric Secretariat has intensified efforts in reaching out to farmers through its extension workers to not only sensitise them on crops that are prone to the contamination but also teach them best practices before, during and harvesting stages as well as storage practices.
Earlier in her address, the Country Officer of PACA, Mrs. Stella Denloye disclosed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has categorized the Aflatoxin as one of the most toxic substance found in nature.
Mrs. Denloye specifically listed some of the crops prone to Aflatoxin infection as rice, corn, nuts, maize, cereals etc.
She noted that records from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) indicates that about 25% of food crops produced world-wide are contaminated by Aflatoxins which is a threat to security.
She added that that the degree of contamination in food crops are determined by the soil type, temperature as well as storage conditions.
Explaining further, she opined that preventive measures require both pre and post-harvest activities that will enhance the capacity of plants to resist fungal formation and growth.
She said PACA is implementing programmes in the FCT that supports capacity building as well as scientific researches to prevent and manage Aflatoxin.
While thanking the group for the visit, the Director, Agric Services Dr. Nkem Akanegbu emphasized the need for pre and post-harvest Aflatoxin testing as on measure that can help in identifying the presence of the toxin in crops.
She assured them of the preparedness of the Secretariat to collaborate with the group especially in the training Agric extension workers not just for the benefit of farmers but also guarantee food security.