The Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA), a programme under the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission (AUC) yesterday held a daylong business meeting on aflatoxin mitigation at a local hotel in Kololi.
The forum was designed to interact with national stakeholders from the public, private sectors and development partners in the mobilisation of resources towards the implementation of the National Aflatoxin Control and Investment Plans (NACAIP), which was validated in June 2016.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Lamin Jobe, who deputised the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance, informed the gathering that PACA is a dedicated programme under the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission.
Jobe added that the programme is supporting six countries including The Gambia, noting that aflatoxin is a major cause of pre and post-harvest losses in groundnut, rice and maize, commodities that are widely consumed by a number of Gambians.
Without mitigation measures, he went on, small producers mainly the women and small farmers are going to be seriously affected as contaminations is proving to become a major obstacle in linking Africa farmers to markets as aflatoxin affect commodities in meeting national, international and regional regulations and standards governing agriculture, trade and food safety.
“We believe that protecting our commodities could be one of the best and possibly most effective ways of sustainable development. I believe all of us have a role to play to promote public awareness on all stages matters on Aflatoxin,” he asserted
For her part, Dr Perpetua Katepa Kalala, Food and Agriculture Organisation resident representative in The Gambia expressed delight with the number of participants representing diverse sectors, noting that the eradication of Aflatoxin calls for concerted effort by all stakeholders.
She commended the organizers for bringing together a diverse number of participants, positing that FAO is a member of the PACA steering committee.
Dr Kalala maintained that The Gambia is among six countries that are chosen to pilot some control measures under PACA, noting that the business plan that has been developed for Aflatoxin in the country is part of the framework agreed by PACA and tailored for each participating country.
“I therefore congratulate The Gambian team that did done a tremendous job in bringing a good policy document that will provide good guiding as we move forward,” she said.
Speaking on behalf of the Director General of Food Safety and Quality Authority, Mutarr Sonko of the same authority, said Aflatoxin challenge in Africa is now well documented as it posed significance threat to food and economic security as well as undermine the eradication of poverty in Africa.
He pointed out the need for food business operator to know and operate best practices to prevent Aflatoxin contaminations, stating that consumers should also be inform about the level of Aflatoxin in food to enable them make informed decision.
Speaking to the Daily Observer, Winta Sintayehu, programme officer PACA, said the programme is a collaboration that aims to protect crops, livestock and people from the effects of aflatoxins.
According to her, combating these toxins, PACA will contribute to improving food security, health, and trade across the African continent.
by Samba Jawo