They’re invisible, tasteless and odourless, but aflatoxins are one of the biggest threats to food safety and security in Africa and globally, affecting 4.5 billion people.
One scientist in Nigeria is on a mission to help farmers, processors and exporters manage aflatoxins for the health, social and economic betterment of the country.
Dr Titilayo Falade works on several projects at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), a global research organisation based in Nigeria, and focuses on food pathogens and food safety concerns.
IITA is making great strides in helping more than 25,000 smallholder farmers manage aflatoxins. The ripple effects are improved food and nutrition security, healthier communities, more jobs and improved livelihoods.
Aflatoxins are poisonous carcinogens produced by certain fungi found on crops such as maize. They cause liver cancer and are associated with immunosuppression and child stunting. Aflatoxins can be fatal in humans and animals.
One major project Titilayo works on, at IITA, is the Nigeria Aflasafe™ Challenge Project, an innovative US$12.68 million Pay-for-Results initiative partly funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The project is focused on influencing the supply chain for farmers by transferring Aflasafe technology to private sector manufacturers and distributors or, where appropriate, to governments, for the product to be widely adopted by smallholder farmers.
Under the project, smallholder farmers were motivated to use Aflasafe to produce aflatoxin-reduced maize. Participating farmers produced more than 210,000 metric tonnes of treated crops, with 90 per cent of their maize meeting international regulatory limits for aflatoxins.
‘This means the maize is safe to consume and sell,’ she says. ‘These smallholder farmers and processors can, therefore, trade-in premium markets with strengthened bargaining power for improved results.’
Titilayo attributes her results at IITA to the Australia Awards PhD in Agriculture and Food Safety she obtained from the University of Queensland in 2017.
Combining her doctoral experiences and her African and Australian networks, Titilayo co-authors expert articles on aflatoxins, including for reputable scientific publications such as Agriculture, Food Control and Toxins. She has also written a book chapter on management strategies for aflatoxins in sub-Saharan Africa for IntechOpen and co-authored a training manual on using Aflasafe.
She says, ‘it’s rewarding to apply my PhD knowledge to agricultural innovations that help Africa transform agriculture in providing solutions to agricultural problems, improving food safety, nutrition and wealth creation.’
Photo Credit: Dr Titilayo Falade
Feature from Alumni News Volume 28.