Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Monday, March 30, 2015

Apps4Aflatoxin meeting

23-26 March 2015. Nairobi, Kenya. A small group of actors gathered in Nairobi to work on a proposal on how mobile phone applications (apps) can be used against aflatoxin contamination (awareness raising, linking sms alerts to sensors in storage facilities, etc.). This goes beyond existing Smartphone Apps which offer Cheap Aflatoxin Tests.
  • The invited experts in aflatoxin and its hazards made very good efforts to bring everyone to a competent level of understanding the causes and effects of aflatoxin contamination. By the end of the first day the participants were well conversant with aflatoxin and the thinking behind the write shop.
  • On subsequent days, the group was guided on the expectations of the proposal call and had the benefit of presentations from KALRO (the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation) and the BecA-ILRI hub (the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute) to bring a practical perspective on how aflatoxin has been handled in Kenya and the wider African region. There were guests from CTA (the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU), AccessAgriculture, FAO and other practitioners in agriculture who shared their insights and thoughts on how technology could be incorporated to facilitate agriculture and aflatoxin management.
  • Dr. Harvey Jagger of ILRI
  • The visits to IHub and the BecA-ILRI hub opened the eyes to how technology has been used to improve agriculture service delivery and widen the scope of knowledge on it. 
  • The visit to IHub was particularly informative as it brought up many useful IT applications like:
  • M-Farm mobileM-Farm gives up-to-date market information, link farmers to buyers through our marketplace and current agri-trends
  • IcowiCow is an Agricultural Information Service with a variety of products available as a subscription service through *285# to help farmers enhance productivity
  • Soko Text: Soko text uses the power of text messaging to aggregate demand for food and unlock wholesale prices for small entrepreneurs in urban slums.
  • Horizon: 5,000 automatic weather stations will be installed at new and existing mobile network sites throughout Africa over the coming years, aiming to increase dissemination of weather information via mobile phones that can reach the continent’s most remote communities.
  • Ensibuuko: Ensibuuko is championing a new model of microfinance by leveraging on innovations in mobile technology to bridge the gap between financial service providers and the rural poor
  • The BecA-ILRI hub is a shared agricultural research and biosciences platform that exists to increase access to affordable, world-class research facilities. Located at and managed by ILRI in Nairobi, Kenya, the BecA-ILRI Hub provides a common biosciences research platform, research-related services and capacity building opportunities to eastern and central Africa and beyond.
Comments of participants:
The writeshop was very useful for me in that it brought experts from various disciplines (Agriculture, Research, ICT, Engineering and Private sector - App developers, Consultants ….). This was a very rare opportunity one could not afford to miss and I think this is what made it possible for everyone to attend despite the short notice and the busy schedules for most of us! Abel Atukwase, Makarere University, Uganda
The visits to IHub and ILRI opened our eyes to how technology has been used to improve agriculture service delivery and widen the scope of knowledge on it. The visit to IHub was to me particularly informative as it brought up many useful IT applications like “M-Farm mobile”, “Soko Text, “Horizon” and “ensibuuko” which have made great strides in improving agricultural effectiveness and which we can refer to in our work, publications and engagements. Peter Githinji Regional Programs Coordinator East Africa Grain Council
Background:
Aflatoxin Apps are related to health, the environment (climate change), livestock and agriculture. There is an increased and urgent concern of contaminated food and feed from African Governments, the African Union, Regional bodies, donors, private sector actors, researchers, farmer organisations, mobile phone apps developers. Two years ago IFPRI has published some excellent briefs.

Dr. Charles Ngonge of KALRO
In developing an app to manage aflatoxin contamination, the challenge is to understand the practices especially of smallholder farmers to determine the most beneficial and cost effective entry point. Exploring the triggers and responses across the entire value chain using the intended apps; from varietal selection to harvesting, drying and storage and the impact on controlling aflatoxin level such that the levels are within the limits to meet national/regional and international standards, is interesting research. In the interim, consideration should be given to intensifying the training to support the adoption of good agricultural practices and the requisite equipment for evaluating moisture content and aflatoxin level in the dried product.
  • One of the challenge is to introduce Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points (HACCP) into the peanut production chain, and maize feed storages. This would require the development of a dedicated mobile phone application (apps). HACCP can identify procedures and practices along the value chain that are likely to expose crops to mycotoxin contamination. Once these have been pinpointed, Critical Control Points (CCPs) can be set up at specific stages of the chain so as to eliminate or reduce the risks. CCPs for peanut production may include checking procedures at various stages, such as seed selection, planting, harvesting, drying, sorting and storage. 
  • Visit of Beca Hub at ILRI
  • The use of wireless sensor networks in storage facilities can help mitigate aflatoxin contamination problems, but also to facilitate research activities in crucial scientific areas such as storage monitoring and energy management. There is a need for technology research and application development in the area of Wireless Sensor Networks for Development: WSN4D. 
Another major challenge is to be able to cluster datasets to provide an evidence base, tools and tailored information for aflatoxin apps and to organize and make available a broad set of data and information tools to inform the development and deployment of the apps, sensors and other tools. 
  • Aflatoxin contamination is a pervasive and dynamic problem, driven by a combination of genetic (host crop, pathogen), environmental (rainfall, relative humidity, pests, temperature,…) and management (tillage, fertilizer, intercropping,…) factors. 
  • In order for interventions and information to be deployed to successfully reduce risk of aflatoxin contamination, and to respond to aflatoxin hotspots when they emerge despite best efforts, the growing body of information needs to be assembled and made available to researchers, policymakers, farmers and other stakeholders. 
  • Some initiatives are creating databases of ongoing projects, however a portal to access the technical data and dynamic maps and predictive models is required to fully empower the research for development community to address this problem in East Africa and beyond.
The issue of aflatoxin is only one example of how the need of farmer organisations and apps developers can be brought together. The facilitation of co-creation is the broader purpose of this partnership.

Published on 29 Mar 2015
Interview with Ms. Mugethi Gitau, Community Manager, iHub | Research | UXLab | Consulting



Related:
16/03/2015. With iCow and M-Farm, smartphones reboot African agriculture
26/03/2015. EAX Supports Rwandan Farmers better manage their Post Harvest The processing of the grains this way will address the serious post-harvest challenges that farmers face, particularly higher moisture content which could result in storage losses as well as the farmers’ ability to attract a good price at the point of sale.
11/02/2015. Open data: how mobile phones saved bananas from bacterial wilt in Uganda
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