Groundnut farmers from three counties are set to benefit from a Ksh.50 million European Union (EU) support programme, that will help them safeguard standards and food safety across the crop’s value chains, to enable the products be accepted in both local and international markets.
The farmers drawn from Homa Bay, Siaya and Busia counties, have been trained on good agronomical practices, post-harvest handling and storage techniques, that will help in reducing levels of mycotoxins contamination in groundnuts.
Through the multi-million 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, more than 300 farmers have also been 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”, said Misiko.
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.
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.
Government is employing actions 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.
Agriculture Food Authority (AFA)-Horticultural Crops Directorate Head of Regulation and Compliance Josephine Simiyu attributes high levels of chemical residues in crops to lack of proper information and knowledge among farmers saying some small scale farmers handle and apply pesticides without the use of appropriate personal protective equipment putting their health at risk.