Agricultural produces in the tropics are vulnerable to mycotoxins contamination. Hot and humid conditions are favourable conditions for fungal growth and production of mycotoxins. Inadequate drying and storage practices aggravate the susceptibility of produce to mycotoxins contamination. The purpose of this study was to assess the storage practices and awareness of smallholder farmers on mycotoxin contamination of cereals and oilseeds in Chamwino district, Dodoma region. A total of 90 smallholder farmers were interviewed using a structured questionnaire containing closed-ended questions. Smallholder farmers kept their produces on the bare ground during harvesting (42%), used open-sun drying (92%) and rudimentary method to check produce dryness (72% visual assessment and 9% biting), and stored grains in plastics or woven bags which are placed on the floor without pallets (95.6%). Moreover, the majority have neither heard about mycotoxins (88.9%) nor aware on fungal contamination and effects of consuming mycotoxins contaminated products (81.1%). Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority (96.7%) of smallholder farmers involved in this study were not aware that feeding animals with aflatoxins contaminated feeds lead to contaminated animal/poultry products. This indicates that consumers are exposed to products which are most likely contaminated with mycotoxins. Training of farmers and mass media campaigns are highly recommended to reduce post-harvest losses and mycotoxin contamination along the produces value chains.
Key words: Aflatoxins, storage practices, awareness, smallholder farmers.
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