In January 2013, an international, multidisciplinary team of five upcoming researchers undertook a scoping survey of aflatoxins in the feed-dairy chain in Kenya as part of activities of the project, “Measuring and mitigating the risk of mycotoxins in maize and dairy products for poor consumers in Kenya” (MyDairy project).
The team comprised Kenyan PhD students Anima Sirma and Daniel Senerwa, American intern Calvin Pohl, Japanese veterinary student Taishi Kayano and Kenyan postdoctoral scientist Teresa Kiama.
They visited nine districts and 27 villages in rural Kenya where they led participatory rapid appraisals on dairying and aflatoxins and held focus group discussions with women dairy farmers.
In addition, all the communities visited were given information and training on safe handling and storage of milk and animal feed.
The qualitative part of the survey collected data on the type of feeds, milk yield and the storage period for milk and feed, among other variables.
Samples of milk and feed were also collected for laboratory analysis to investigate the association between the condition of cattle and the prevalence of aflatoxin in milk.
The results of the qualitative survey are being analyzed but preliminary findings show that the surveyed farmers use a variety of feeding practices for their dairy cattle and most of the milk is marketed in the informal sector as raw, unprocessed milk.
Recalling his field research experience as an ILRI graduate fellow, Kayano had this to say:
“I visited farmers with livestock officers or chiefs in the districts. Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to get meet the local farmers and collect the milk and feed samples.
“They also helped to identify the precise locations of the dairy farms; this was very useful as there are no detailed maps of dairy farms.
“The livestock officers also translated our questionnaires from English to Kiswahili which was a key step in acquiring the data needed for the study.
“An internship at ILRI is a really good opportunity for students who would like to work on a short-term basis in an international research institution and to experience doing research in a developing country context.”