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Mobile Assay aflatoxin diagnostic tool featured on BBC Horizons

In November 2014, BBC Science program Horizons featured Mobile Assay’s Lab-on-Mobile-Device platform diagnostic tools. Mobile Assay developed their diagnostic platform for use with any Rapid Diagnostic Test.

Mobile Assay's smartphone application could offer a cheap way for African farming communities to manage aflatoxin. The application could also contribute to building a ‘big data’ set to assist research on aflatoxin outbreaks.The Lab-on-Mobile-Device platform can detect aflatoxins as accurately as a laboratory test, but can be carried out anywhere at a fraction of the cost using a smartphone camera.

The feature aired in November 2014 and is available for viewing on the Horizons website. More information about Mobile Assay is available here.

PACA Begins Creation of Africa Aflatoxin Information Management System (AfricaAIMS)

One of the major challenges in mitigating aflatoxin in Africa is the lack of adequate information and harmonized data collection on the subject. Yet information is needed to inform policy and interventions; inform prioritization of resource allocation; and promote country capacity and awareness on the aflatoxin issue. Through the PACA initiative, the African Union Commission will establish an Africa Aflatoxin Information Management System (AfricaAIMS) that will serve as a “one stop shop” information harbor for aflatoxin information in the health, trade and agriculture sectors. Data on the AfricaAIMS will be “home‐grown” owned by AU Member States and respective Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The information on the AfricaAIMS will serve policy makers, regulatory bodies, potential investors, technical agencies (health, trade and agriculture), researchers, farmers, civil society organizations (CSOs), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), private sector partners along the value chain and other interested parties. In September and October 2014, the PACA Secretariat conducting training sessions for its pilot countries. The Secretariat will also provide guidance on how other countries can contribute data to AfricaAIMS.

PACA Selects Pilot Countries and Conducts Inception Workshop

PACA, working with Regional Economic Communities, selected five pilot countries to roll out aflatoxin control activities using criteria agreed upon during the 10th CAADP Partnership Platform in March 2014. PACA is pleased to announce The Gambia, Malawi, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda as the first set of pilot countries. An Inception Workshop on PACA Pilot Country Activities was held on 10-11 June 2014 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The workshop focused on review and discussion of the planned activities for 2014. At the workshop participants agreed on the methodology and time-line for implementation of activities in the pilot countries. The workshop was attended by food safety authorities, academia and line ministries of all five pilot countries (from the health, trade and agriculture sector) as well as the corresponding Regional Economic Community representatives. During the meeting, member states and Regional Economic Communities recognized the importance of adequate and reliable information on aflatoxins to inform policy and aflatoxin mitigation interventions. The Africa Aflatoxin Information Management System (AfricaAIMS) was therefore welcomed and endorsed. Africa AIMS will generate reliable home-grown data to inform policies in the countries where it is implemented.

PACA Partners with Pilot Countries on Three Major Activities

After the successful completion of the PACA Pilot Country Activities Inception Workshop in June 2014, PACA, COMESA and SADC held roundtable discussions in Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda, and PACA and ECOWAS held roundtable discussions in The Gambia and Senegal to get input and endorsement from government officials on the implementation of activities. The meetings were attended by representatives of each government, the African Union Commission, the respective Regional Economic Community, and various experts and stakeholders to discuss PACA activities and implementation process in the pilot countries. During the roundtable discussions, the delegates acknowledged the ongoing work in these countries and recommended actions for further strengthening current programs. The representatives agreed on three major initial activities in the five pilot countries and recognized these activities as fully supporting current aflatoxin programs and activities in the countries:

Activity 1: Establish Africa Aflatoxin Information Management System (AfricaAIMS);

Activity 2: Support Country-led Situation Analysis and Action Planning (C-SAAP); and

Activity 3: Mainstream Food Safety and Aflatoxin Control through the PACA initiative in CAADP National Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plans (Mainstream FoodSAC).

The AUC and Meridian Institute renew MOU

The African Union Commission and Meridian Institute, USA, have renewed the Memorandum of Understanding that was originally signed by both parties in September 2012 on the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA) on January 14, 2014. This day did not only mark the renewal of the MoU but also the signing of a grant agreement to the tune of US$ 1.2 million between the two parties to support PACA Secretariat operational and programmatic activities in 2014. The MoU and grant agreement were signed by the Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Her Excellency Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, on behalf of the AUC, and by Senior Partner of Meridian Institute, Mrs. Barbara Stinson. They both emphasized the importance of this partnership and the continued fight against the aflatoxin problem in Africa.

2014: Year of Agriculture and Food Security launched at the AU Summit

During the July 2012 summit of the African Union, Heads of State and Government declared 2014 as the "Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa" also marking the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

On 30 January 2014, the Year of Agriculture and Food Security was launched at the 22nd AU Summit of Heads of State and Governments. The newly elected AU Chairperson, president of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, noted that this comes at an important time for Africa as the AU discusses the African Agenda 2063 that looks  into inclusive growth and sustainable development on the continent. As most African countries rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, the chairperson emphasized, this year will be a great opportunity to focus on the transformation of the agriculture sector for prosperity, growth and sustainable development in Africa. As 2014 also marks the 10th anniversary of CAADP, it is a year where all stakeholders will reflect on the successes and failures of CAADP and be able to map out the targets for the next decade.

Diourbel : Tests concluants de la Dpv contre l’aflatoxine

La Direction de la protection des végétaux (Dpv), dans le cadre de son programme d’élimination de l’aflatoxine, s’est réjouie des résultats obtenus au terme de la phase test qui a permis le traitement de 600 hectares dans huit villages aux alentours de Tawfekh.
Une visite de terrain des responsables de ce programme qui a démarré depuis 2010 a permis de se rendre compte de son efficacité. Selon eux, la lutte contre l’aflatoxine se fait à base d’un champignon produit au Sénégal sous la supervision de la Direction de la protection des végétaux (Dpv), avec le soutien de l’Institut international tropical d’Ibadan (IETA, au Nigeria), l’Université d’Arizona (Etats-Unis d'Amérique) et d’autres partenaires américains. Il consiste à utiliser ce champignon pour éliminer l’aflatoxine, cette substance cancérigène qui se trouve dans la graine d'arachide.

Amadou Lamine Senghor, Docteur en phytopathologie à la Direction de la protection des végétaux (Dpv), révèle que « la lutte se fait à partir du champ, après le dernier sarclage. L’épandage est fait dans le champ et le champignon accompagne l’arachide jusqu’au magasin ». Pour le technicien, les résultats sont probants car ils  vont jusqu’à une réduction à 90% du taux d’aflatoxine en analysant les graines qui ne sont pas triées. Et quand on procède au triage, on se retrouve avec 0% de contamination. Un résultat qui, a dit M. Senghor, est important pour la santé des populations qui consomment l’arachide, mais aussi qui va booster sa commercialisation à l’international ».

L’aflatoxine est responsable de certains types de cancer et constituait une barrière pour l’exportation de l’arachide dans certains pays. D’ailleurs, l’infirmier chef de poste de Sessène révèle : « Il y a des cas qui sont détectés dans la zone et qui sont référés au niveau supérieur pour une meilleure prise en charge ». Les producteurs d'arachide de Tawfekh, Sessène et les villages environnants se sont félicités de la réussite du programme. Pour Adama Ngom de Sessène, ce produit leur a apporté beaucoup de bien, car il n’y a plus de « guerté Sabou » et les rendements ont augmentés. Les autorités doivent trouver les voies et moyens de soutenir la production et de l’étendre au reste du pays.

Les résultats du programme d’élimination de l’aflatoxine loués

Les producteurs d’arachide de Tawfekh, un village situé dans la périphérie sud-ouest de la ville de Diourbel (Centre), ont loué vendredi les résultats du programme d’élimination de l’aflatoxine, plaidant pour le développement d’un marché capable de soutenir le coût du produit servant à éliminer cette substance cancérigène contenue dans la graine d’arachide.

Le programme d’élimination de l’aflatoxine existe depuis 2010 et utilise une méthode de lutte biologique. Un champignon produit au Sénégal est utilisé pour éliminer cette substance cancérigène et contenue dans la graine d’arachide.

Supervisé par la Direction de protection des végétaux (DPV), le programme est mis en œuvre avec le soutien de l’Institut international tropical d’Ibadan (IETA, au Nigeria), l’Université d’Arizona (Etats-Unis d’Amérique) et d’autres partenaires américains.

« On a fait des résultats qui peuvent nous donner des réductions pouvant atteindre 90% du taux d’aflatoxine contenu dans l’arachide ou le maïs. Si on trie les graines, on se retrouve avec zéro pour cent de contamination », a soutenu Amadou Lamine Senghor de la DPV, au terme d’une visite de terrain, à Tawfekh.

Aussi ces résultats sont-ils d’une grande importance pour la santé des populations, mais aussi pour l’économie rurale bridée en partie par les barrières européennes reposant sur la problématique de l’aflatoxine. Il s’agit d’une toxine responsable de certains types de cancer, a-t-il rappelé.

« L’aflatoxine est une toxine qui a eu des conséquences très néfastes sur l’économie de l’arachide au Sénégal, mais aussi sur la santé des populations. Elle est devenue un problème de santé publique, de nos jours », a souligné M. Senghor.

Il s’est réjoui des résultats obtenus par le programme, au terme d’une phase-test de quatre ans. Quelque 600 hectares ont été traités en 2013 dans huit villages environnants de Tawfekh et 16 villages situés dans le département de Nioro, dans la région de Kaolack (Centre), selon les responsables du programme d’élimination de l’aflatoxine.

Regional workshop on the aflatoxin challenge in West African States – ECOWAS

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in collaboration with the African Union Commission through the PACA initiative, held a workshop from 18-20 November in Accra, Ghana. The workshop aimed to identify regional priorities to address aflatoxin related issues in the West African region.

Over forty experts from the various sectors of agriculture, trade and health attended this event. Representatives from various countries were also present. The ECOWAS workshop also benefited from the experiences of other Regional Economic Communities like the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) that shared its experience in established structures and mechanisms in implementing and coordinating SPS capacity development programmes. ECOWAS is one of the most advanced REC in implementing a Regional Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP) which has derived from the continental framework, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). The region has also made major advances in addressing food insecurity through various initiatives within the region. Furthermore, ECOWAS has developed several regulatory frameworks on Sanitary and Phystosanitary (SPS) issues as well as others that will provide a competitive edge for the region’s agricultural products and attain food security in the region.

During the workshop, expert recommendations from all three sectors were made in order to address the aflatoxin challenge in West Africa as well as calling for coordinated efforts to manage the risks to each sector and economic development as a whole. During the workshop, several cross-cutting interventions were made such as creating public awareness, building capacity in countries, creation of markets for aflatoxin safe commodities, and continuous research. Experts urged policy makers to mainstream aflatoxin issues into the relevant regional and national frameworks.

Aflatoxin Challenge in Eastern and Southern Africa—COMESA

The Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), in collaboration with the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA) of the African Union, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other institutions, is organizing a regional workshop on the aflatoxin challenge in Eastern and Southern Africa.

The workshop’s main objectives will be to sensitize key stakeholders on the aflatoxin challenge in the region, to assess current efforts to mitigate aflatoxins, as well as setting regional priorities. This will enable COMESA countries to develop regional action plans on aflatoxin control to further strengthen regional and intra-regional trade as well as protect human health. The workshop will be held in Lilongwe, Malawi from 11-13 March 2014.

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