Equipment to de-contaminate maize from aflatoxin now found in Kenya

Aflatoxin infected maize. Equipment that is to help Kenya reduce aflatoxin in maize is to be installed at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO). [Photo: Courtesy International Institute of Tropical Agriculture]
Aflatoxin infected maize. Equipment that is to help Kenya reduce aflatoxin in maize is to be installed at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO). [Photo: Courtesy International Institute of Tropical Agriculture]
Equipment that is to help Kenya reduce aflatoxin in maize is to be installed at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).

The equipment uses nixtamalization, a process where limewater is used in reducing the content of toxins and preserves the nutrients and healthy properties of maize.

“The equipment removes 30 – 60 percent of aflatoxins from maize leaving maize with acceptable consumption levels,” Dr. Natalia Palacios, Maize Nutrition Quality Specialist for Global Consultative Group for the International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) program in Maize said during the launch of nixtamalization in Nairobi.

Palacios said that the process is an ancestral technique used throughout Mexico and Latin America and is used in nixtamalizing flour and dough to make tortillas and over 300 varieties of maize based dishes.

Palacios revealed that the two industrial this machinery that were delivered costs US Dollars 8,000.

In 2004, 124 people died of aflatoxin after consuming contaminated maize, deaths that majorly occurred in Eastern Kenya. Last year the government destroyed 150,000 bags of maize for fear of contaminating consumers.

Aflatoxin is blamed for the increasing number of cancer cases, stunted growth that is experienced in Eastern Kenya and reduced food production in the country.

“Kenya’s local and international trade on maize has been vastly affected due to the aflatoxin contamination,” Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Gender and Youth Sicily Kariuki said while receiving the equipment on behalf of the government.

Kariuki said that the equipment will help the country discover other uses of maize since in Kenya people only know of 10 uses of maize as opposed to 600 in Mexico.

She noted that the equipment will help open additional markets and also create job opportunities for the youths in the country.

The Mexico Ambassador to Kenya Erasmo Martinez observed that with the changing environment that is prone to increasing crop diseases, there is need to exchange expertise to help reduce the suffering that farmers goes through.

He said that nations prosper faster if they share experiences in helping solve problems and also meet the international agreements.

KALRO and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) are in the process of training scientists who will be using the equipments.

Besides aflatoxins, Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) has also been causing damages to maize farms in the country in the past few years in Kenya.

Since 2011, MLN emerged as a major threat to food security in the East African region as a result of infection of a maize plant by the Maize Chlorotic Mottle Virus (MCMV).

Between 2011 and 2014, MLN was reported in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia, South Sudan and Burundi.

KALRO Director General Dr. Eliud Kireger said that equipment is set to help change the continuous maize cropping in certain areas that initially had perennial aflatoxin problem.

“To date, it is evident that the disease is still prevalent in all the maize growing regions and more sever in Eastern Kenya where farmers continue to incur comparable losses,” he observed.

Kireger revealed that the equipment will be based in Kitale, in Western Kenya that is largest maize producer in the country.

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