Nelly Bassily | May 17, 2010
For broadcasters in Kenya and East Africa especially, it is worth checking local sources for updates to this story.
In Africa, aflatoxin is most commonly associated with groundnuts, but can occur in many other crops. It is sometimes spelt aflotoxin. It can be very poisonous to humans.
The mould that causes aflatoxin occurs in soil, decaying vegetation and grains. High moisture content and high temperatures favour rapid growth. It can also spread when crops are stressed after a drought.
Farm Radio International has produced a radio script about aflatoxin: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/79-3script_en.asp.
-For further information on aflatoxin, ICRISAT, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, has some easy-to-understand internet pages dedicated to aflatoxins. The information is mostly about groundnuts, but there are also background materials on aflatoxins in maize at: http://www.icrisat.org/aflatoxin/maizemanagement.asp.
-Wikipedia also gives good basic information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aflatoxin.
-More scientific details and photos can be found at: http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/toxicagents/aflatoxin/aflatoxin.html.
-More information on the effects of aflatoxin in humans (known as aflatoxicosis) can be found on medical websites, such as this: http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/a/aflatoxin_exposure/basics.htm.
Not all farmers have heard of aflatoxins. Because an outbreak of aflatoxin can cause serious health issues as well as economic loss, it is an important topic. You may wish to raise awareness by hosting an on-air discussion or debate. Some questions to consider asking:
-What information is available to farmers about aflatoxins?
-Who provides this information? Is it sufficient?
-Should more be done to raise awareness about aflatoxins in cereals?
-How common are plant fungal infections in your region? Do farmers have established methods of dealing with them?
Samples of maize tested by the National Cereals and Produce Board in the following districts of Kenya have been reported as “above the tolerable limit”: Kibwezi, Machakos, Yatta, Mwala, Mwingi, Makueni, Maara, Igembe, Imenti South, Imenti North, Isiolo, Embu, Bura and Mbeere.