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How good agricultural practices, farmer education can help Nigeria control food toxins

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Nigeria’s ability to control the high rate of toxins found in its foods largely depends on farmers’ education and their adherence to good agricultural practices, experts say.

Isaac Ogara, a lecturer in the department of Agronomy, Nasarawa State University said that mycotoxins and other toxins content found in crops can be drastically reduced by mainstreaming control strategies in the country’s farming systems along the various value chains.

“Farmers need to have awareness that there are deadly chemical substances that occur naturally without their knowing. One of the strategies through which farmers can protect their crops from these toxins is to harvest their crops early. Harvesting early helps to reduce the incidence of mycotoxins,” Ogara said.

“Farmers must also ensure that they carry out good farming practices by ensuring that they carry out all the cultivation practices according to recommendations and dry their crops properly. Crops must be properly dried with moisture content of about 12-14 percent,” Ogara who is also the secretary of the Mycotoxicology Society of Nigeria (MSN) said.

He also stated that the use of Neem tree and Jatropha extracts also help to reduce levels of mycotoxins in foods. He noted that the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has developed a product called aflasafe which farmers can adopt to reduce the occurrence of the toxicogenic fungi.

Toxins are poisonous chemical compounds produced by certain fungi and moulds that are threats to food and feed for human and animal consumption with regards to long term poisoning and thus, constitute a challenge to agriculture and food security.

Mycotoxins are majorly found in maize groundnuts, beans, sorghum amongst others.

According to researchers there are five groups of mycotoxins which are; aflatoxins, ochratoxins, fumonisins, deoxynivalenol/nivalenol and zearalenone.

“The importance of mycotoxins in our agricultural products and their attendant implications on the safety of foods and feeds, trade and health cannot be over emphasised. Food and feeds sold in our open markets are neither regulated nor traceable and this has made the zero rejection program of the Federal Government an uphill task,” said Folasade Bosede Oluwabamiwo, president, MSN.

“I therefore appeal to all stakeholders including our political leaders to grant the same global attention given to HIV/AIDS in terms of massive education, political support and wide spread sensitisation to mycotoxins in order to ensure availability of safer food and reduction of deaths associated with the diseases related to mycotoxins consumption,” Oluwabamiwo said.

Josephine Okojie

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