KENYA – Kenyan groundnut farmers from three counties, are set to benefit from a Ksh. 50 million (US$427,000) European Union (EU) support programme, that will help them safeguard quality standards across the crop’s value chains.
By heightening focus on food safety, it will increase products acceptability in both local and international markets.
As part of the initiative, the farmers drawn from Homa Bay, Siaya and Busia counties, will been trained on good agronomical practices, post-harvest handling and storage techniques, that will help in reducing levels of mycotoxins contamination in groundnuts.
Undertaken through the EU- funded Market Access Upgrade Program (MARKUP), which is being implemented by United Nations Industrial Organization in collaboration with the Kenyan government and the private sector, the more than 300 farmers will also be trained on the type of groundnuts to be planted in their respective ecological zones in order to boost their output.
The knowledge management expert at MARK-UP, Christine Misiko, said documented food safety incidences in the groundnut value chain within the devolved units include mycotoxins, particularly aflatoxin, pesticides and microbial contamination.
These she said could be tackled using the right investments in the food systems, from production to consumption to guarantee the country’s foreign exchange earnings through quality exports of farm produce and value-added products.
“With the high pesticide residue and aflatoxin levels exceeding the recommended level of 10 parts per billion in a given grain, little of these products will access international markets such as the European Union,” Misiko noted.
The food scientist explained that about 80 to 90 percent of ailments such as non-communicable diseases or food borne diseases could be addressed through access to proper food nutrition and safe food which in turn help reduce expenditure in the health sector by empowering communities to produce clean and safe food.
Misiko noted that in the recent past processors of groundnuts have resorted to imports mainly from Malawi and Uganda due to high levels of aflatoxin in the local crop.
She, however, said they were inspiring action to help prevent, detect and manage food borne risks through training of master trainers of groundnut farmers from various state agencies on an integrated approach involving tapping into crop genetic resources, controlling insect damage, managing toxic fungi, and proper post-harvest handling to mitigate mycotoxin contamination.
Aflatoxin is naturally produced by fungi called Aspergillus flavus and Parasiticus Fungus,that commonly infects food crops, and could easily cause liver damage and cancer in humans if consumed.
In Kenya maize, ground nuts, wheat and milk are the main sources of aflatoxin exposure as highlighted by the International Livestock Research Institute.