Improving Aflatoxin Control in Haiti

This past month, Dr. Pat Wolff, Alex Carroll, and Rick Macajoux represented MFK at a four-day project inception meeting for the Improving Aflatoxin Control in Haiti (AFLAH) project. This project is financed by the International Development Research Centre, a Canadian government institution, and managed by Dr. Patrice Dion of Laval University in Québec City. The overall objective of the project, which will be implemented over the course of the next 30 months, is to improve aflatoxin control in Haiti through concerted efforts of men and women peanut farmers, other value chain actors, and public institutions, including multiple Haitian government agencies. MFK will participate as a partner in numerous project activities over the next 2.5 years, working together with other nonprofit organizations, universities, and government bureaus in Haiti, the United States, and Canada. The inception meeting included two days of discussion at the Auberge le Picolet hotel in Cap-Haïtien and two days of field visits, including a visit to the MFK agriculture extension farmer group in Savane Longue, Ouanaminthe. Both the farmers and the visiting project team were excited for the opportunity to talk with one another. The visiting team learned much useful information from the MFK farmers about aflatoxin control, value chain functioning, and common local agricultural practices, and the farmers learned more about aflatoxin control efforts currently ongoing in Haiti.

Over the course of the project, MFK agronomists and agriculture technicians will collaborate with Haitian master’s students at Laval University to carry out multiple scientific studies. The first study will be based on experimental economics and will use techniques such as Vickrey and BDM auctions to determine the barriers and mechanisms for adoption of aflatoxin control methods by peanut aggregators (commonly called madan sara in Haitian Creole) and small-scale peanut butter producers. A separate but analogous study will be conducted with Haitian peanut farmers by iF Foundation, an MFK partner and AFLAH project participant. Aflatoxin control technologies that will be tested during these studies include drying peanuts on tarps instead of the soil, storing peanuts in hermetic storage bags that create an anaerobic environment instead of traditional woven sacks, and sorting out bad peanuts before selling. These two studies will be coordinated by one of the Laval University master’s students.

A third study will include surveying individuals involved in the peanut value chain in order to identify possible aflatoxin control points along the value chain. This study will be conducted by MFK and a second Laval University master’s student. Another component of this project will include studying appropriate uses for aflatoxin-contaminated peanuts, and will be carried out in conjunction with Fondation CHIBAS-Haïti, another MFK partner and project participant based in Port-au-Prince and working closely with Quisqueya University. Possible uses for rejected peanuts include peanut oil production, animal feed with aflatoxin binders, and composting or bio-energy production, among others. The information from these studies will facilitate adoption of aflatoxin control technologies at strategic points along the value chain.

The MFK agriculture team is grateful for the opportunity to conduct academic research with these various project partners. Our research efforts over the next 2.5 years will hopefully lead to reduced aflatoxin levels in Haitian agricultural products as well as the eventual creation of national aflatoxin food-safety standards by the Haitian government.