Nestle has succeeded in using drama projected on screens to improve farming practices to improve the quality and safety of grains used for its products.
This strategy has addressed the problem of high content of aflatoxin, a type of mycotoxin in maize production, which saw high tonnes of maize being rejected at the market by Nestle eight years ago.
Mycotoxins are fungal-based toxic compounds which are hard to destroy if they enter the food-chain. Toxin-reduction can only be achieved through good agricultural and storage practices, developed in co-operation with national extension partners.
A crop contaminated with a mycotoxin in very high proportions when consumed can result in serious health problems.
Speaking to the Ghana News Agency, Mr Aaron Fenu, Communications Officer of Nestle Ghana, said eight years ago, Nestlé rejected around half of its locally grown grains supplied to its factories in Ghana and Nigeria because they contained high levels of aflatoxin (a type of mycotoxin that is a potent carcinogen).
He said in order to ensure that the contaminated grains did not get into the food chain and address the problems; Nestle developed a drama, to train farmers in Tamale on best harvesting practices to sort and prevent mycotoxins from their maize and other cereals.
Mr Fenu said Nestle partnered the governments of Ghana and Nigeria, and with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to set up the Grains Quality Improvement Project as a means of improving farming practices.
In Ghana, Nestle is partnering with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and is working with the Northern Rural Growth Programme (NRGP) in Tamale to focus more on improving the quality and the safety of the grains produced.
Mr Paul Siameh, Producer Oganisations Specialist of NRGP, told the Ghana News Agency that the farmer training started in the classroom, but farmers did not appreciate the existence of aflatoxin until they decided to take the farmers into fields to visit well-run farms that produced good yields and good quality maize.
“The farmers with this method understood and accepted the existence of the problem and the need for them to get rid of the problem so they can have their produce bought by Nestle at a higher and appreciable price,”
Mobile cinema was set up in villages showing the drama, to reinforce the messages the farmers had received during the training.
The drama featured locals using the local language Dagbani to ensure that the content was relevant, useful and meaningful to those watching.
Nestle is using this drama in helping to rid West Africa of a toxic compound that can contaminate crops, damage health and lead to financial ruin for farmers.
Mr Siameh said about 50,000 farmers and their families, have been trained and educated about the health effects of mycotoxins and the measures needed to prevent them.
Mr Klutse Kudomor, Nestlé Ghana’s Procurement Manager, explained that since most of the farmers in the Northern Region were small holder farmers, “it wasn’t easy to reach them.”
Nestlé, he said, now sourced locally, all the grains used in the production of its infant and family cereal products – Golden Morn and Cerelac – and there was no longer the need to import raw products.