Information, Technology, and Market Rewards: Incentivizing Aflatoxin Control in Ghana

Food safety hazards arising at the farm level affect the health of agricultural households as well as access to high value markets, which typically require that produce meets strict quality and food safety standards. Smallholder farmers face a number of barriers to improving the quality and safety of their produce, including a lack of awareness about safety and quality standards, the cost of equipment required to improve these, and the failure of premium prices to pass through to farmers. In this paper, we examine how lifting each of these barriers affects Ghanaian groundnut farmers’ adoption of post-harvest practices that reduce aflatoxin contamination. Aflatoxins are carcinogenic secondary metabolites of certain molds, which cause serious health problems including liver cancer. Common in groundnuts and maize, staple foods in much of Africa, aflatoxins pose a major threat to food safety and hinder the development of local agricultural value chains and export markets. Aflatoxin contamination can be substantially reduced through low-tech, low-cost post-harvest practices. We conducted a randomized control trial in northern Ghana with 1,005 farmers over the course of two seasons to test the imapct of three interventions to improve post harvest practices and reduce aflatoxin levels: (1) farmer training on aflatoxin and its prevention, (2) distribution of free drying tarps, and (3) a price premium for groundnuts found to comply with the local aflatoxin regulation. Training farmers substantially improves post-harvest practices. Tarp receipt further improves some practices, particularly with regards to drying surface. Surprisingly, we find that the price premium had little effect on reported or observed practices, and few farmers even sold nuts at this premium despite achieving compliance. Relative to training alone, tarp distribution reduced afaltoxin contamination by approximately 50 percent in the region and year when background levels were highest. The market premium also reduced aflatoxin levels, although to a lesser extent.

Issue Date:
Dec 15 2017
Publication Type:
Conference Paper/ Presentation
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 Record created 2017-12-22, last modified 2018-01-22

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