A NEW project worth 80bn/- that seeks to control Aflatoxin, dangerous toxins that are produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus that infects food staples, has been launched.
Agriculture Minister, Mr Japhet Hasunga, speaking at a ceremony to launch the project on Tuesday, he noted that the five-year project, Tanzania Initiative for Preventing Aflatoxin Contamination (TANIPAC), would address food safety challenges.
“The main goal of the project is to improve food safety in order to attain food and nutrition security, hence to improve the health of the community as well as agricultural productivity,” said the minister during the project launch.
In 2016, an Aflatoxicosis outbreak was reported to affect some 65 people in Bahi, Chemba in Dodoma and K iteto in Manyara. The epidemic resulting from Aflatoxin led to 19 deaths.
Mr Hasunga explained that while the problem of aflatoxin on maize stood at between 25 and 43 per cent in Morogoro, 34 per cent in Tabora and 40 per cent in Geita, the problem on groundnuts stood at between 18 and 20 per cent in Mtwara and 18 per cent in Manyara.
He further said that TANIPAC would participate in the Agricultural Sector Development Programme (ASDP) phase II which was launched last June, saying the ASDP II aims at improving profitability in the agricultural sector. “TANIPAC will improve profitability as well as value of the crops.
The aspects include safety of food which is sold to consumers within and outside the country,” observed the minister.
Mr Hasunga cited the objectives of the project as to improve pre and post harvest infrastructure, technology and management as well as to improve public awareness on Aflatoxis.
Mr Hasunga said the agricultural sector employs over 65 per cent of the workforce in the country and contributes 65 per cent of industrial raw materials in the country.
“The agricultural sector contributes 85 per cent of exports that generate foreign currency for our country,” he observed.
The Permanent Secretary in the Agriculture Ministry, Engineer Mathew Mtigumwe, pointed out that the project would be undertaken in ten regions, focused on growing maize and groundnuts on the Mainland and Zanzibar where evidence indicates a high likelihood of occurrence.
He mentioned specific target areas for the project implementation as Bahi, Chemba, K ondoa and K ongwa (Dodoma), K ilosa and Gairo (Morogoro), Nanyumbu and Newala (Mtwara), Namtumbo (Ruvuma), K asulu and K ibondo (K igoma), Nzega and Urambo (Tabora). Other areas are Babati and K iteto (Manyara), Buchosa (Mwanza), Itilima (Simiyu) Bukombe (Geita) and Pemba and Unguja (Zanzibar).
Eng Mtigumwe said the project targets key stakeholders in the maize and groundnut value chains, saying the project activities would directly benefit about 60,000 farmers, 120 extension and technical staff. “Indirect beneficiaries are the entire population as the mitigation of aflatoxin in staple food will improve public health,” he said.