“Africa loses an estimated US$670 million in lost export trade alone due to aflatoxin contamination in foodstuffs."
The education sector has been identified as one of the vehicles channels that Uganda can use to achieve sustainable food security.
Grace Anyango, the Head of the Department of Human Nutrition at Bukalasa Agricultural College on Wednesday told the African Union Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA) conference at Speke Resort Hotel in Kampala that students in such institutions as Bukalasa have a major role to play in transforming agriculture in light of the Uganda Vision 2040 where government envisages middle-income status for the country.
"We are making further adjustments in the curriculum to tackle issues of food safety and quality control and the initial adjustments are in the Diploma in Animal Husbandry and the general Diploma in Agriculture. Our main aim is to produce graduates that will support the agricultural extension system by transferring knowledge on the same to the farmers and other actors," Anyango said.
The PACA event was held on the side-lines of the 13th Partnership Platform of the African Union's Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) in Kampala aimed at bringing together stakeholders to discuss progress on the implementation of the programme.
Tackling a continental challenge
Anyango added that one of the main sub-topics under food safety and quality control will be the control of aflatoxins, which are highly-toxic substances produced in foodstuffs by fungi.
Aflatoxins, as hinted by Dr. Amare Ayalew, the Program Manager of the African Union Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA), remain a major challenge in Africa that requires increased attention.
"Africa loses an estimated US$670 million in lost export trade alone due to aflatoxin contamination in foodstuffs. With 40 percent of the foodstuffs on the continent contaminated and the fact that aflatoxins are responsible for an estimated 30 percent of liver cancer cases, member states of the African Union have much more to do in improving food safety and quality control," he said.
Engaging the youth in Africa
As noted by PACA's Dr Cris Muyunda, the youth remain a major focus group in the steps being taken by the African Union in the fight against aflatoxins and transformation of agriculture.
"There is a lot of potential in the youth that can be used to transform agriculture. That is why we focussed this event on the theme of making African agriculture more competitive, vibrant and attractive to the youth through improved food safety and quality for boosting trade and agribusiness," he noted.
Uganda is one of six initial pilot countries for the activities of PACA alongside Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, the Gambia and Tanzania where major mitigation strategies are being implemented by the African Union.