Grain farmers in Kenya have been grappling with post harvest losses associated with insects and pests, making their produce unfit for human consumption or for sale.
This has forced farmers to use various kinds of chemicals to fumigate the grains after harvest in order to ensure that insects, pests, moulds and other phenomena that may destroy the grains are averted.
However, the launch of a new grain bag with improved technology is set to revolutionise grain storage for farmers and reduce post harvest losses.
The AgroZ bag launched last week in Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia counties has several layers in addition to the outer woven bag.
According to A-Z Textile Mills Ltd group marketing and sales manager Bhubhinder Singh, the inner layer cuts off oxygen into the bag hence the pests and insects inside the harvested crops will die without destroying the crops.
“The multi-layer provides an impermeable barrier to gases exchange and also makes it water resistant. This in turn kills pests introduced with harvested grain through dehydration within a few days after the sealing of the bag,” Singh said.
The reusable bag can be used across a range of agricultural commodities such as maize, dry beans, cow peas and wheat. The bag, which can be used for up to three seasons, goes for Sh250.
Singh said post harvest losses of grains are extensive and a major threat to food security in developing countries.
It is estimated that Africa loses over four billion dollars annually in post harvest grain losses due to lack of proper storage facilities.
In Kenya, food waste and losses occur at the early stage of the value chain which can be attributed to financial, managerial and technical constrains in harvesting, storage and cooling facilities.
The problem is particularly common in Sub-Saharan Africa where on-farm storage solutions are either not available or are poorly adapted to local needs, with inadequate protection against insects and pests that destroy stored crops.
This, Singh added, has been necessitated by the kind of grain storage bags which facilitate the multiplication of grain pests as well as allowing the new pests such as weevils to penetrate the bags, further compromising the grain quality. “It enables the farmers to store their produce over a longer period of more than seven months without the risk of losing the produce to pest infestation. The maize needs to be dried to moisture level of 13.5 per cent or below before bagging,” Singh added.
Elizabeth Melly from Soy constituency said she has been incurring huge costs in buying chemicals to preserve her maize and the bag will cut that down. “I always spent over Sh20,000 each season in fumigating my maize after harvests. With the introduction of these bags, I am sure that the money will be channeled towards other uses,” Melly said.
Philip Koech from Moiben said any grain taken to the National Cereals and Produce Board should be of high quality and sometimes their grains are rejected because of being weevil infested.
“Normally the pests bore into the maize and other grains compromising its quality. I believe that the bag will help me maintain my maize quality after harvesting,” Koech said.
Africa Technical Research Centre director Ouma Odera said farmers should use such bags which ensures peoples’ health is safeguarded by eliminating the use of chemicals in fumigating the grains.
“Kenyans have been complaining of lifestyle diseases which are really increasing. If we adopt such farming methods of maize storage, then we will reduce these diseases because there will be no chemical application of the crops,” Odera explained.