The Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA) of which Twin is a member has just announced that it will receive $19.8 million in new funding from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and $1.6 million from the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) to support its work.

This significant investment will allow PACA to establish a comprehensive, Africa-wide approach to aflatoxin control, working with the African Union Commission (AUC), and with interest from African and other governments, Regional Economic Communities, the private sector, and civil society leaders from across Africa. The partnership aims to help small farmers lift themselves out of poverty by advancing projects to control aflatoxin contamination, improve food quality, and increase farmers’ access to markets.  

Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring, but highly toxic, substance caused by fungi. The toxin is linked to liver disease and cancer and associated with immune-system suppression, growth retardation, and death in both humans and domestic animals. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 25% of world food crops are affected by aflatoxin, and countries that are situated between 40ºN and 40ºS of the equator all around the globe are most at risk. While aflatoxin control measures are implemented in developed and international markets, many of the one billion people who live on less than $1 per day rely on their own agricultural production for their food and livelihoods, which can contain harmful levels of aflatoxin. 

PACA aims to adapt proven solutions, and identify new ones, that will work for smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Comprehensive solutions will be developed, addressing the health, nutrition, trade, and agricultural impacts of aflatoxin.  Solutions will include effective measures to control aflatoxin along the value chain, from crop production to processing, and food preparation to consumption. 

Twin’s work on aflatoxin control

Twin has identified aflatoxin control as a key priority for its projects in groundnuts in southern Africa.  In partnership with producer organisations and social investors, Twin recently set up Afri-Nut Ltd, a landmark groundnut business in Malawi, which brings processing under the control of its producer owners, generating additional income and addressing aflatoxin contamination. Nut products are produced for the domestic market as well as for export.

Rigorous safety procedures are in place at Afri-Nut to reduce the risk of aflatoxin contamination, including:

  • Pre- and post-processing aflatoxin testing;
  • Improvements in storage, including construction of modern warehouses and buying centres;
  • Replacing hand shelling with mechanical shelling to reduce exposure to moisture; 
  • Sorting nuts at mechanised sorting tables.

The facility currently has capacity for 4000mt of groundnuts per annum and hopes to expand its operation and be a model for similar enterprises. PACA has identified Afri-Nut as an example of how a for-profit social investment business has the potential to have an impact on the health status of millions of people.