Aflatoxin contamination effects in Nigeria and IITA’s Pilot Challenge Project for Implementers

Photo credit: Agresults.org

Photo credit: Agresults.org

Application Closing Date
15th January, 2016 at 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time


Aflatoxin Contamination in Nigeria

Aflatoxin contamination is a global problem affecting 4.5 billion people in developing countries. Among the most carcinogenic substances known, aflatoxins are produced by some species of Aspergillus fungi that are most commonly found in grains such as maize and groundnuts. In Nigeria, where smallholders produce over 70% of the nation’s maize crop, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) estimates that up to 60% of maize may be aflatoxin contaminated in some years.

Although technologies to reduce aflatoxin contamination have existed for decades, barriers in the market, among other reasons, have prevented widespread adoption. Specifically, the lack of enforcement of aflatoxin contamination regulation limits incentives to investment in its control. In this setting, a pull mechanism focusing on increasing the adoption of existing aflatoxin control technology has the opportunity to improve the health and economic benefits of aflatoxin mitigation to farmers and other actors in the value chain.

AflasafeTM Objective

The Nigeria AflasafeTM Pilot focuses on incentivizing the adoption of AflasafeTM, a new bio-control technology, by smallholder maize farmers. Although several technologies are available to address aflatoxin contamination, bio-control represent the most promising technology for pilot support because it addresses aflatoxin contamination and is ready for deployment in Nigeria. Using native Aspergillus strains incapable of producing aflatoxin to crowd out aflatoxin-producing strains, AflasafeTM prevents aflatoxin formation in the field and continues to protect grains from contamination through transport and storage. Extensive field tests of AflasafeTM in Nigeria have shown an average of 80% reduction in aflatoxin levels in treated crops, and up to 99% reduction in some cases.

The AflasafeTM Project

The AflasafeTM Project has a Challenge to encourage maize aggregators in Nigeria to work with (and to provide incentives to) their smallholder maize farmers to adopt AflasafeTM, a technology shown to reduce Aflatoxin contamination of maize by 99% and to lead to premium per unit prices therefore improving the export quality certification of maize treated with AflasafeTM.

What are the benefits of AflasafeTM?

  • Aflasafe will significantly reduce aflatoxin concentration in food and feed.
  • Farmers will have healthier families and more profit.
  • Greater opportunities for trade from less rejection of products in the market.

What is aflatoxin?

  • Aflatoxin is a poison produced by a fungus, called Aspergillus flavus.
  • This fungus resides in soil and dead/ decaying matter in the field.
  • Aflatoxin contaminates 25%+ of maize and groundnut crops produced in Nigeria.
  • It is very dangerous to humans and animals.
  • Aflatoxin affects many other crops, such as cassava, yam, and rice.

How does aflatoxin harm us?

  • Aflatoxin causes liver cancer, suppresses the immune system, and retards the growth and development of children.
  • Aflatoxin-contaminated feed and food causes a decrease in productivity in humans and animals and is sometimes fatal.
  • Aflatoxin-infected crops are forced into low value markets or destroyed.
  • Aflatoxin damages our health and business opportunities.

Can we see aflatoxin?

  • Aflatoxin cannot be seen—it is a colorless chemical.
  • Aspergillus flavus is green in color (right).
  • Grains without visible signs of flavus may also have high amounts of aflatoxin.
  • Laboratory tests determine contamination levels.

Where and how is aflatoxin produced?

  • Aflatoxin is produced when the Aspergillus fungus attacks grains.
  • Insect damage increases fungal growth and aflatoxin contamination.
  • Drought and high temperatures increase aflatoxin production so do bad harvest, postharvest, and storage practices.

Can we reduce aflatoxin contamination?

  • Yes, by using a safe and highly cost-effective biocontrol product developed by IITA called AflasafeTM together with other good management practices.

What is AflasafeTM and how does it work?

  • AflasafeTM contains a mixture of four atoxigenic strains of flavus of Nigerian origin. Colonized sorghum grains hold a few nanograms of the atoxigenic strains.
  • AflasafeTM is broadcast on fields at 10-20 kg/ha 2-3 weeks before flowering of the crop.
  • Within 2-3 days, the atoxigenic strains sporulate on the sorghum; this continues for up to 3 weeks.
  • The atoxigenic strains colonize organic matter and other plant residues in the soil in place of the toxin-producing strains.
  • Spores of the atoxigenic strains are carried by air and insects from the soil surface to maize cobs displacing the toxin-producing strains.
  • Atoxigenic strains in AflasafeTM compete with strains that produce large amounts of aflatoxin and in so doing limit the amount of aflatoxin produced.

How effective is AflasafeTM?

  • AflasafeTM can reduce aflatoxin concentration by 60-96% in maize at harvest and in storage.
  • The beneficial effect of AflasafeTM is carried over from one season to the next.

How safe is AflasafeTM?

  • It is completely safe. There is no possibility of the four constituent atoxigenic strains in AflasafeTM becoming toxigenic.

Nigeria Aflasafe Pilot Challenge 2015

The AgResults Nigeria Aflasafe Pilot Project in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) announces a Challenge to encourage maize aggregators in Nigeria to work with-and to provide incentives to-their smallholder maize farmers to adopt Aflasafe, a technology shown to reduce Aflatoxin contamination of maize by 99% and to lead to premium per-unit prices. Subject to the terms of the Challenge Rules, premium payments will be made to aggregators for Aflasafe maize collected from the smallholder farmers and confirmed by the AgResults Verifiers to have at least 70% Aflasafe prevalence.


  • To deliver development impact, namely in terms of health and economic benefits to smallholder farmers by reducing exposure of smallholder farm families and other consumers to aflatoxin.
  • To build a sustained market for aflasafe™ by establishing the necessary preconditions for long-term adoption of aflasafe™. These preconditions include the emergence of reliable premium markets for aflasafe™ and low-aflatoxin maize, along with the emergence of affordable aflatoxin testing methods and enforcement of aflatoxin regulations.
  • To learn about pull mechanisms, driven by the innovative financing by smallholder for adoption of agriculture technologies.

Expected results

  • Total production of aflasafe™-treated maize would exceed 260,000 tons by year four of the program, equivalent to around 3% of current maize production in Nigeria, of which 60,000 tons are estimated to be consumed on-farm and 200,000 would be sold in markets.
  • Deliver health benefits from reduced aflatoxin consumption among over 70,000 smallholder family members, not including downstream maize consumers.
  • An average of 35,000 farmers is expected to be involved directly in the program with an average rural household size of 4.5 members.


  • Implementers
  • Smallholder farmers and their households
  • Food and feed industries
  • National regulatory and research institutes
  • General consumers of maize products.

Method of Application
Aggregators interested in participating in the Challenge are asked to complete and submit the accompanying Application. The Application will be reviewed by the AgResults PM, in consultation with Pilot Advisory Council and the AgResults Secretariat. Eligible aggregators interested in the Challenge participation will be selected at the discretion of AgResults and notified in writing.

Participation in the Challenge is subject to the aggregator’s compliance with the Challenge Rules, attached hereto as Appendix 4. By submitting the Application or participating in the Challenge the aggregator confirms its compliance with the Challenge Rules.

If you are an aggregator interested in applying for the Nigeria Aflasafe Pilot, please complete the accompanying Application and transmit it to:
Adebowale (Debo) Akande,
Pilot Manager, Nigeria Aflasafe Pilot,
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Abuja Farm,
PMB 82,
Beside Old Water Works,
Kubwa Village,
+234 703 221 3797

Email: info@agresults.org

Click here to download application form

For more information click here


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