Market-driven strategies for combating aflatoxins in Rwanda

Aflatoxins are naturally occurring fungal by-products that contaminate crops – especially cereals and oilseeds – and the contamination may occur in the field and storage. At low levels of dietary exposure, aflatoxins are associated with immune suppression (Mohsenzadeh et al., 2016), low birth weight (Passarelli et al. 2020), stunted growth in children (Rasheed et al. 2021), and liver cancer–the best known of aflatoxin health effects. More than 4 billion people – especially in Africa and Asia – are frequently exposed to aflatoxins worldwide (Williams et al., 2004). It was estimated that 4 – 25 % of liver cancers per year are attributed to aflatoxin exposure, with most cases occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia (Li and Wu, 2010).

Countries in tropical and sub-tropical regions – especially those, such as Rwanda, with climates characterised by high temperatures, drought risk, and high levels of humidity post-harvest – offer favourable climatic conditions for the growth of aflatoxin-producing fungi and the formation of aflatoxin in commodities in the field and storage (Kew 2013). Moreover, climate change may exacerbate aflatoxin contamination of agricultural commodities in tropical regions due to increasing temperatures and more erratic rainfall patterns (Thomas et al., 2019; Warnatzsch et al. 2020).

This project report is a follow-up to a webinar organized by the International Growth Centre and the Rwandan Ministry of Agriculture titled: “Market-driven strategies for mitigating aflatoxin in Rwanda”. The report highlights advances in science made to tackle aflatoxin contamination, describes the prevalence situation and regulation of aflatoxins in Rwanda, and proposes recommendations for supply-side and demand-side policies to mitigate aflatoxin contamination in the country.