Insect-proof bags to prevent ‘Osama’ from attacking cereals

Workers loading a truck with maize at the Maralal NCPB depot yesterday.Photo Martin Fundi
Workers loading a truck with maize at the Maralal NCPB depot yesterday.Photo Martin Fundi

The insect-proof bags launched this week will stop the loss of about five million bags of maize annually mostly to a notorious pest nicknamed 'Osama', the Agriculture ministry has said.

A nationwide campaign supported by USAid will popularise the use of the gunny bags, which are fitted with plastic linings to control pests without the use of chemicals.

Agriculture CS Willy Bett said the hermetic bags can control all pests, including the large stock borer, which farmer call Osama, because it is difficult to eliminate.

“We experience 20 to 30 per cent loss, especially in cereals every year due to pests and poor storage,” he said.

The bags apply simple technology, starving insects of oxygen, so they suffocate.

This eliminates both the insects and mold by depleting oxygen levels and producing carbon dioxide within the storage unit.

“I took part in efficacy trials of bags of this technology and I can confirm that it works against all types of pests,” Bett said yesterday.

The campaign is supported by the USAid through the Kenya Agricultural Value Chain Enterprises Project.

Each 90kg bag costs about Sh250 and different manufacturers in Kenya say it can be reused fro up to five seasons.

Kenyans consume about 40 million bags of maize every year, and experts estimate that if post-harvest losses are reduced, the country would save millions of shillings in food imports.

Deputy director of the Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organisation Felister Makini said all types of grains can be stored in the bags, if they are completely dried.

“The dry food can last more than one year without going bad. This is a cheaper storage alternative for farmers,” she said.

Michael Nicholson, acting head of economic growth at Usaid, said the bags will increase amounts of food available for consumption.

“In 2014 USAid tested 2,000 bags and trials confirmed effectiveness in entirely eliminating wastage,” he said.

Different manufacturers have been producing the bags in Kenya for a several years, but this will be the first time they are popularised in a national campaign.