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Monday, 5 August 2013

Post harvest strategy mooted

Counties set to 
deal with Aflatoxin

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) in partnership with stakeholders at the county level have come up with a drive to ensure the country at large achieve food security by providing trainings on aflatoxin control.

Addressing  stakeholders from Machakos, Makueni and Kitui counties KEBS chief manager in charge of certification Ruth Ogweno said the drive is to ensure Kenyans are able to use the standards to improve their quality of life.
“KEBS role is to disseminate standards so that we do not just make standards and publish them and they are not used. The standards that control aflatoxin are one set of such standards and that is why we are here to help people of eastern to know where they can get help in regards to aflatoxin and contamination of food.”Ogweno said
Aflatoxin contamination in maize is a major threat to consumer health and food security, particularly in lower eastern region where harvested maize and related milled products often contain dangerous concentrations of aflatoxins.
Machakos county minister for agriculture, livestock development and cooperative development              Larry Wambua assured that his ministry will work closely with stakeholders in the county especially farmers so that the county can fight food insecurity which has been a major hindrance to development in the region due to dependence of relief food.
“This seminar has come at the right time because we in Machakos County have embarked on a very important campaign of ensuring that our farm output increases. We have rolled out a scheme where we give farmers subsidies in terms of good seeds, fertilizers and also tractors and this is going to happen from next month.” the minister revealed
Wambua added that it is important for the farmers to be sensitized on how to manage their produce after harvesting so as to avoid contaminations and aflatoxin and at the same time reap maximum profits from the sales.
He said that his ministry has elaborate extension scheme where extension officers will be deployed to farmers right from planting, weeding, harvesting, storage and marketing.
“We are going to ensure that measures to ensure that there is no aflatoxin that affects the produce are taught to the farmers.
The minister said that the Machakos County government will work ensure that in the next two years the county has enough food and stop relying on relief food which has been the norm in previous years.
“Our dream is that there should be no food aid in the next two years and this will not be achieved if we have bumper harvest that falls prey to aflatoxin and contaminations.” he added
The minister said that in the next budget starting from July, the government has factored in to construct two silos at Masinga and Mwala districts at a cost of Sh80 million to help farmers with storage facilities.
He added that his ministry has also set aside funds to purchase produce from farmers to protect farmers from middle men who buy produce from farmers at throw away prices.
“We have set aside Sh150 million which will be used to buy the produce from the farmers so that we cushion them from middle men who come to buy their bags of maize at Sh1,000 per bag. They exploit the farmers so we have set aside the funds to buy the maize and keep it in our stores and NCPB silos.” Wambua stated
Mr. Gary Nyaga form the ministry of agriculture said the country and particularly the lower eastern region have for a long time suffered food insecurity due to the aflatoxin contaminations and poisoning whereby there have been loss of life and produce.
Nyaga added that the ministry has embarked on massive prevention and control of aflatoxin especially in lower eastern region which is very prone to the attack by training extension staff in ministry of agriculture and health on measure to counter the menace.
“The practices of farmers encourage and enhance aflatoxin contamination. These are technologies the farmers employ right from harvesting by dropping the crops on the ground, drying the crops on the ground and shelling through very heavy beating with metals and hard wood thereby injuring the kennels.” Nyaga said
He encouraged farmers to practice proper storage to avoid their produce from having accumulated moisture that bring about aflatoxin infection.
“The government has bought 36 mobile driers and distributed them to aflatoxin prone areas and has put up 15 community based stores to help in the storage so that the farmers can store their produce in a professional way.”he stated

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