NAIROBI, Kenya Nov 30- Kenyan maize farmers may soon find their labour more rewarding following reports that experts have found a way of preventing aflatoxin contamination.
A report by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) is urging the government to improve the seed quality given to areas prone to aflatoxin to improve the yield of maize.
Dr George Mahuku said CIMMYT had come up with a variety of hybrid maize seeds and talks were ongoing with the government through the Ministry of Agriculture on how to put the seeds in farmers’ hands.
“We are working with the government and leaders in the affected regions to put in place firm infrastructure to ensure farmers have access to a seed variety that is not prone to contamination,” he said.
He added that the government needs to come up with an integrated solution that addresses seed solutions for areas that are likely to have more contaminated maize and have them distributed there.
“We need to work on varieties and hybrids that are tolerant and resistant to aflatoxin and once that is in place put the seeds in the hands of those vulnerable farmers,” Mahuku said.
Kenya has become one of the world’s hotspots for aflatoxin with many lives put at risk from exposure to contaminated maize. People exposed to very high aflatoxin concentrations experience liver failure and rapid death.
The problem in Kenya has been severe in large parts of Eastern and Coast provinces where bumper harvests turn to anguish as most of the produce gets contaminated with aflatoxin due to poor drying methods.
Mahuku said to further protect the lives of Kenyans proper disposable methods for contaminated maize need to be initiated because feeding it to farm animals poses further risk to consumers.
“In Kenya people are used to just disposing the contaminated food by feeding it to the chicken or cows in the homestead. This however puts them at risk when they then go to consume the meat or milk because the fungi will be passed through to them,” he said.
He said the contamination can be avoided if farmers are empowered to use micro-silos and improve overall post-harvesting handling and storage.
One opportunity is the use of a metal silos, an airtight cylindrical metal structure that can be constructed by Jua Kali artisans under supervision of food technologists. The metal silos can store up to 20 bags of maize, an average harvest for a Kenyan home, and do not require special storage structures.
CIMMYT is currently working with the Catholic Relief Services to champion the metal silos in parts of Embu and Mbeere and educating farmers on its benefits.
Last year, the government expressed interest in working with research groups and non-governmental organizations to make such equipment available to farmers through subsidies.