Title : Drivers of Post-Harvest Aflatoxin Contamination: Evidence Gathered from Knowledge Disparities and Field Surveys of Maize Farmers in the Rift-Valley Region of Kenya
Maize-dependent populations in sub-Saharan Africa are continually exposed to aflatoxin poisoning owing to their regular consumption of this dietetic cereal. Being a staple in Kenyan households, consumption of maizebased meals is done almost daily, thereby exposing consumers to aflatoxicoses. This study assessed awareness levels, knowledge disparities and perceptions regarding aflatoxin contamination at the post-harvest phase among farmers in the Rift-valley region of Kenya. Households were randomly selected using a Geographical Positioning System (GPS) overlay of the agro-ecological zones within Uasin Gishu and Elgeyo Marakwet counties. Face-to-face interviews were conducted in 212 smallholder and large-scale farms. The study documented the demographic profiles of farmers, knowledge, awareness and perceptions of aflatoxin contamination using a pre-designed structured questionnaire. Most farmers were familiar with aflatoxins and the adverse effects they present to health (61.32%). Almost all the farmers (94.37%) were aware of storage molds and food spoilage fungi. However, few farmers adopted good post-harvest practices (PHPs) such as avoiding premature harvests (49.8%), using well-ventilated storage spaces (44.6%), grain sorting (30.5%), proper drying of maize (17.8%) and using hermetic bags for storage (30.5%). Conclusively, intensified farmer education is required to train farmers on good PHPs to protect their maize from aflatoxigenic fungi and aflatoxin accumulation. Keywords: stored maize; aflatoxins; post-harvest practices; Hybrid-6 series maize cultivars; food security; Riftvalley; Kenya.