Farmers and scientists are worried over the growing threat of pets and diseases to food security.

Globally, biological threats caused by pests and diseases in plants account for about 40 per cent loss in global production.

Experts say the problem may get worse.

A World Bank consultant , Prof Abel Ogunwale, said pests and diseases challenge crop producers, and called for recommendations on how farmers could manage obstacles to crops as the planting season begins.

This, he said, was because climate change is going to aggravate the impact of plant pests and diseases on food production across the nation, and the steps must be taken to control and improve monitoring and evaluation of infestations to prevent crop damage.

According to him, the government should work with farmers to strengthen the monitoring and recording of pests to alert authorities to take early action. He explained that farmers know how to handle the threats by pests and diseases.

Meanwhile, a natural product called Aflasafe, which can reduce contamination from aflatoxin, a silent killer, would soon be available in at least 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

More than 4.5 billion people in developing countries are exposed to aflatoxins, carcinogenic poisons produced by a fungus that contaminates crops.

Aflasafe was developed by International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), United States Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service (USDAARS), and national partners.

So far, the product reportedly has achieved about 98 per cent efficacy in reducing grain contamination on the fields and stores of farmers where aflasafe products are registered or in the process of becoming nationally registered.

Following the success of aflasafe—the first indigenous bio-control innovation for the prevention of aflatoxin contamination on the fields and store houses of maize and groundnut farmers in Africa, IITA is set to enable commercialisation of the technology, to ensure that farmers in need of the product have access to it.

The new aflasafe technology transfer and commercialisation project (TTC), funded by a $20 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID, was launched last December to be implemented in countries, such as Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

“To get aflasafe to the masses, we need many companies, millions of small-scale farmers, and distributors, who know what aflasafe can do to apply it. IITA is excited because the institute is on the edge of reaching this goal,” IITA Deputy Director-General, Partnerships for Delivery, Kenton Dashiell, said.

Corroborating the need to work with private businesses in getting the technology out, IITA Plant Pathologist and leader of the Africa-wide aflasafe initiative, Ranajit Bandyopadhyay, who has worked on the product for more than a decade, noted: “This product is indigenous. Developing the technology was not difficult, taking it out to the end users is the challenge; therefore, partnership is very crucial.”

ATTC Managing Director Abdou Konlambigue said the project was designed to identify strategic options for partnerships with private companies, and government entities, execute those partnerships, and help ensure that aflasafe reaches millions of farmers throughout sub-Saharan Africa.


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