The five strategic thematic areas of PACA’s work are:
- Generating and promoting research and technology for the prevention and control of aflatoxins
- Developing policies, legislation and standards for the management of aflatoxins
- Growing commerce and trade and protecting human health from aflatoxins
- Enhancing capacity for effective aflatoxin prevention and control
- Increasing public awareness, advocacy and communication
Theme 5: Improving public awareness, advocacy and communication
Awareness of aflatoxins in Africa is generally low, which severely hampers attempts to improve aflatoxin management and control.
Small-scale farmers and other value chain actors are largely unaware of the dangers posed by aflatoxins and of possible measures to reduce contamination. Consumers are unaware that everyday food items could cause them long-term harm. Health workers are unlikely to be equipped to diagnose and treat aflatoxin-related diseases, especially those due to long-term exposure to low or medium levels of aflatoxins. Policy makers tend not to prioritize aflatoxin control and prevention relative to other food safety issues.
Scientists and communication specialists will need to provide clear, evidence-based information on aflatoxins to each of these target groups. Communication material must be easy to understand and make clear the potential dangers while avoiding causing unnecessary panic. It should also be designed with sharing and adaptation in mind, with a view to reaching the widest audience possible.
To achieve these objectives, PACA and its partners will develop a combination of advocacy and communication measures. These measures fall under two main aims:
- To increase public awareness of aflatoxin risks and how to deal with them
- To strengthen policy responses and political will
Increasing public awareness of aflatoxin risks and how to deal with them
Clear information is needed all along the value chain. Smallholders, traders, transporters, processors, storage providers, retailers and wholesalers will be able to make better decisions if fully informed on aflatoxin risks and management.
PACA will develop a strategy to inform and subsequently promote behavioural change among actors all along the value chain. The strategy will be guided by baseline and needs assessment studies.
Working with local partners, PACA will then develop locally relevant communication material targeted at specific audiences. Materials will be tested and evaluated to build up knowledge of which approaches work best (for example, whether different approaches are needed to reach men and women). This will lead to the development of templates containing accurate, simple information on aflatoxin control that can be translated into local languages as needed.
Strengthening policy and political will
Policy makers need a better understanding of the importance and scale of aflatoxins in Africa, the potential benefits of improved management, and the required policy interventions. This will enable policy makers at all levels – local, national, regional and continental – to make more informed, evidence-based decisions on what should be done, how it should be done, and what resources are needed.
The Partnership will compile authoritative data to demonstrate the cost – both purely economic and in terms of human health – of current levels of contamination. Evidence-based briefs will be prepared to clearly outline the problem and potential solutions, as well as the associated benefits of such solutions (human health, increased trade).
Decision makers will also be targeted directly. For example, PACA plans to work with parliamentary agriculture committees to ensure they understand the issues and are able to put in place legislation and secure appropriate budgetary allocations. Similarly, the African Union Commission, the continent’s Regional Economic Communities and development partners will be adequately briefed and therefore well-positioned to make decisions and allocate resources accordingly.