Business News of Monday, 26 May 2014
The World Food Programme (WFP) has trained some farmers and extension officers in the Northern Region on how to use the “Blue Box,” so as to get improved yield to meet WFP’s certification on food.
The session on how to use the “Blue Box”, formed part of WFP’s capacity building for small holder farmers under its Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative, which also aims at ensuring that farmers improve the quality of their produce in their quest to access more markets.
The WFP’s Blue Box is a box which contains a set of equipment used for testing and screening the quality of food the farmers are producing. The “Blue Box” contains tools used in grading maize grains and beans, determining the moisture content of various types of commodities and levels of Aflatoxin, a highly toxic fungus, in corn-based commodities.
Mr Samuel Adjei, Programme Officer of (P4P) briefing participants at a day’s capacity-building training for some selected farmers and extension officers in Tamale, said the objective of the training was for farmers to understand what food quality and safety meant so as to know the commodities’ risk and hazards.
He said it was important for farmers to know the role of commodity specifications, and to learn how to use the “Blue Box” and be able to interpret the test results.
He said WFP food assistance programmes were one of the markets available for smallholder farmers under the P4P programme, and that during a recent attempt to purchase, more than a quarter of the 135mt of maize WFP wanted to buy, had higher than acceptable levels of Aflatoxin.
Mr Adjei said The P4P programme was building the capacity of a total of some 1,524 smallholder farmers in the Ashanti and Northern Regions on business and organizational development, and had been provided with some basic farming equipment to improve their agricultural practices and their income and food security status.
He said the 524 smallholder farmers benefiting from the programme in Northern Region had been supported to obtain rice reapers and threshers, tarpaulins, par boilers, weighing scales, community storage buildings and energy saving stoves, to improve production, harvesting and processing to reduce post-harvest losses.
Mr Fadoi Chaouki, Food Technologist at WFP, said the acceptable Aflatoxin level for WFP is 20 part per billion (20ppb), and that the session would help farmers measure the moisture content of cereals (including maize) and pulses, understand the harmful effects of Aflatoxin, and enable them to make special effort to prevent it.
He said if food was not tested for Aflatoxins before entering the market, it will be impossible to do so at the household level, and that the presence of Aflatoxins in food could cause a variety of life-threatening illnesses, especially for children.
He explained that children with chronic exposure to Aflatoxins would become stunted, underweight and more susceptible to infectious diseases in childhood, and later in life, and advised farmers to adhere to the quality standards of the WFP to ensure that their farm produce was not rejected.