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Govt, US in joint drive to combat cancer-causing moulds in cereals, grains

Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi and the Ministry of Agriculture, (MAAIF) has on Wednesday, October 31 launched a nationwide campaign to combat aflatoxins that contaminate improperly handled grain (PML Daily PHOTO)

KAMPALA – Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi and the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) in the presence of USAID Mission Director Joakim Parker on Wednesday, October 31, launched a nationwide campaign to combat aflatoxins that contaminate improperly handled grain, causing severe health complications, including liver cancer and stunting.

Aflatoxin is an example of a mycotoxin. It is a cancer-causing poison produced by certain fungi in or on foods and feeds, especially in field corn and peanuts. Originally, toxic effects from mold were thought to be the result of exposure to the mycotoxins of some mould species, such as Stachybotrys chartarum.

The campaign, supported through USAID’s Feed the Future program, aims to provide advice and informational materials for farmers, processors, traders and consumers to improve post-harvest handling methods and food quality.

“The partnership between our governments and peoples has a long history,” said Mission Director Parker.

“Our work in the cereal and grains value chains alerted us to the severity of the problem, and we eagerly supported the development of communication materials for aflatoxin awareness and control to mitigate further contamination.”

Nearly half of Uganda’s agricultural exports are found to be contaminated with aflatoxin, reducing export earnings and causing sickness in people who consume these products. Aflatoxins are particularly dangerous for small children in the first 1,000 days of life. Poor handling and storage is a major cause of aflatoxin contamination. To combat this, USAID collaborated with MAAIF and other key stakeholders in the grains sub-sector to develop easy-to-understand information and education materials to enhance farmers’ methods of post-harvest handling and storage.

USAID Mission Director Joakim Parker welcomed the partnership citing that the US governments and Uganda have a long history of support (FILE PHOTO)

The launch is part of the United States’ effort in partnership with Uganda to increase agricultural productivity, strengthen Uganda’s economic competitiveness, and improve household nutrition.

USAID’s Feed the Future Uganda Enabling Environment for Agriculture Activity program assists policymakers to improve the policy, legal and regulatory frameworks that affect agricultural production, processing and trade.

Prof Archileo Kaaya, the head of Makerere’s Department of Food and Technology, had earlier in the year said that research conducted on grains between 2,000 to date found that 60 per cent of the maize, groundnuts, soya beans and sorghum sold on the market have got high levels of aflatoxins that produce cancer

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