Partnership Delivers Food-Safety Training to African Entrepreneurs

An estimated 25% of world food crops, including maize, peanuts and cassava, are affected by aflatoxin contamination. These crops constitute the staple foods for the majority of African countries.

On June 14-15, the Aflatoxin Control & Testing Workshop was delivered to 24 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Nairobi, Kenya through a collaborative project between Partners in Food Solutions (PFS), TechnoServe, USAID and Bora Biotech.

Why Aflatoxin contamination is a big issue in Africa

An estimated 25% of world food crops, including maize, peanuts and cassava, are affected by aflatoxin contamination. These crops constitute the staple foods for the majority of African countries. In 2010, an FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN) survey of the major brands of maize flour in Kenya showed that 65% of the samples had aflatoxin levels above the allowed maximum.

Sector-wide training programs expand the footprint of PFS

“Our sector-wide training programs in Africa allow us to transfer knowledge sustainably, a key objective of PFS. This program has a multiplying effect on the socioeconomic impact of both SMEs and their communities,” states volunteer Angela Mwaniki, project lead for education and training. The training programs serve to strengthen PFS’s relationships with current SME partners; however, “over 50% of the delegates who attended the workshop have not been involved with us. This training was a forum that shed more light on the activities and interventions that PFS and TechnoServe are implementing on the ground,” comments Johnson Kiragu, food technology specialist with Technoserve.

A true collaboration between General Mills and Cargill

Bringing together the right technical expertise from PFS volunteers was crucial to the relevance and success of the aflatoxin training program. With Cargill, Nick Friant brought a rich technical knowledge of aflatoxin and its impact on unprocessed food. Brent Kobielush, a toxicology specialist with General Mills, brought an expertise regarding the formation and consumption of mycotoxins. Together, they became a dream team of what a true collaboration between Cargill and General Mills can look like.

“There is often comfort in a known ‘way of doing things,’ which you get if you were to keep PFS within only one company. There was a synergy that occurred with this team, once we went outside of that comfort zone and reached out to new ways of thinking, operating and solving difficult issues. We found these volunteers  quickly got past what logo was printed on their corporate badges and became an effective, high-performing team that was better than any team just one corporation could have put together by itself,” states volunteer recruiter, Joana Montenegro.

The crucial link: TechnoServe

TechnoServe’s role was central to the selection, design and implementation of the training programs.

TechnoServe identified the need for aflatoxin training, narrowed down the knowledge gap with Kenyan food processors, and defined training objectives. PFS volunteers then developed the appropriate training modules. And finally, TechnoServe staff identified local food industry trainers to complete the design process and deliver the training.

How does this affect consumers and smallholder farmers?

Currently, post-harvest losses in Kenya average around 40%. With proper training on the causes of aflatoxin poisoning, the food processors can create a trickle-down effect on the smallholder farmers in Kenya. “One of the expectations of the training is that every trained processor or grain handler will be able to pass this knowledge on down the value chain to the smallholder farmers who are supplying them,” states Kiragu. This will translate into more revenue for processors and smallholder farmers, and provide safer food supplies to consumers.

What’s next?

With the goal of reaching even more trainees, PFS volunteers are already developing this project into a web-based training module.  In partnership with Northwest State Community College (Archbold, Ohio), this training module will be available on mobile devices, laptops, and desktop computers with streaming video capability at low bandwidths.