Mycotoxins are toxic chemicals produced by fungi that frequently colonize food crops that are grown under stress. Aflatoxins are a type of mycotoxin that can occur in high levels on peanuts and corn and can cause major health problems, such as liver cancer. It is possible to control aflatoxin contamination through good agronomic, drying, and storage practices. Healthy crops tend to be free of mycotoxins, and agroecological intensification (AEI) practices can contribute to soil health, crop health, and thus human health.The Organic Peanut I project developed a System for Prevention and Control of Aflatoxins (SIPCA) that has reduced aflatoxin concentration to acceptable levels among participating farmers. Monitoring results for peanuts for export from 2010-2016 showed a dramatic reduction of aflatoxin contamination from 30% to 1% of samples, with less than 4 parts per billion (ppb) of aflatoxin contamination– a rate considered acceptable for human consumption. In the second phase of the project, mycotoxins in maize were addressed, which preliminary data shows is even a larger problem than aflatoxins. Despite the gains in reducing aflatoxins in export quality peanut, there are signs that mycotoxins are still a major health concern for farmers, as illustrated by farmer urine samples, all tests containing aflatoxins.This project will focus on understanding the degrees of SIPCA and SIPCMMA’s (mycotoxin in maize monitoring system) use, why (or why not) identified levels of contaminants in crops are destined for home consumption, and try to make adjustments if necessary to increase the use of SIPCA/SIPCMMA. The project’s hypothesis is that a more holistic and participatory approach, which takes into account farmer tradeoffs rather than focusing solely on food safety, will improve understanding and management options and adoption.
The project will first increase the understanding of the current utilization (or lack thereof) of SIPCA and SIPCMMA, and then improve either the systems or the ways in which they are implemented. This will likely involve integrating SIPCA/SIPCMMA into a FRN in which over 500 farmers can pursue different research agendas according to their interests and can receive information from different research groups. In previous phases, the project dealt with other issues in the cropping season, but in a paradigm of technology transfer, which could impede long-term use by farmers. The potential FRN will provide a mechanism for integrating disparate parts of the system in a more endogenous manner.
Outputs and Outcomes:
The anticipated outcomes of this work include permanently lowered levels of mycotoxins, diversified production, consumption, and markets, improved productivity; and increased farmer income and well-being. Anticipated outcomes include:
1: Mycotoxin monitoring in peanut and maize for all uses, revealing association with characteristics of individual farms and households; participatory analysis will lead to a deeper understand of where SIPCA and SIPMMCA work, for who, and why or why not. With this information, options can be developed or refined for farmers whose crops have high mycotoxin levels leading to lower levels of mycotoxin contamination among 500 farm families.
2: Establishment of FRNs to research a broader agroecological agenda: More sustainable production, lowering of mycotoxins, more adaptive capacity among networks and farmers.
3: Production of articles and studies of interest to global audiences, as well as communication products for farmers and local and national policy makers. International certification for the mycotoxin analysis services of a local university (Universidad Mayor San Simon), so that samples do not have to be analyzed internationally. This will lead to mechanisms relating to mycotoxin levels and other factors are identified and shared so they can inform interventions globally and lower levels of mycotoxins in Bolivia and other countries due to increased testing and awareness of mycotoxins.