Post-harvest losses likely to increase due to El Niño — researcher

Farmers told to invest in proper storage facilities to reduce field yield losses from heavy rain and flooding.

In Summary

• A researcher has said El Niño could be good news for farmers who planted late unlike those who planted early.

• This is because ordinarily, the farmers would have received low yields with no rains but now there is rain.

Flash floods in Kogalo following the El Niño rains.The Met and UN have warned to expect El Niño starting at the end of the month and continuing into 2024.
EL NINO: Flash floods in Kogalo following the El Niño rains.The Met and UN have warned to expect El Niño starting at the end of the month and continuing into 2024.
Image: FILE

A researcher has predicted an increase in post-harvest losses due to heavy rains from El Niño.

Timothy Njagi, a senior researcher from Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy & Development, said there will be an increase in field yield losses due to too much water in the soil or water logging.

Currently post-harvest losses for cereals is at between 10-15 per cent.

He said farmers who planted early are likely to experience more post-harvest losses, unlike farmers who planted late.

Njagi said El Niño could be good news for farmers who decided to wait for the subsidised fertiliser planted late, unlike those who planted early.

"This is because the crop has matured by now and if it is still raining, then you are likely to lose. But for those who planted late, the El Nino will be a good thing because ordinarily they would have received low yields because the rains will have gone when you really needed them.

"But because it is continuing to rain, it will turn out to be a blessing,” the researcher said.

Njagi said the country moves from one extreme to another extreme, and the Kenya Meteorological Department had warned the La Niña which Kenya had been facing, was likely to be followed by El Niño.

Dr David Gikungu, the head of Kenya Meteorological Department, explained that El Niño itself is not rain, but rather an effect that can impact weather patterns and lead to heavier-than-normal rainfall in East Africa.

“While heavy rains are commonly experienced during El Niño events, it is also notable that these effects are typically most significant during the October to January months and not in June, July and August.

He said El Niño is not necessarily a direct cause of heavy rainfall,” he said in a statement.

He said its effects, usually heavy rains in Kenya, are typically seen from October and not in June, July or August.

Gikungu urged Kenyans to keep updating themselves with weather reports issued by KMD, and seek expert advice in relevant sectors to minimise adverse weather impacts.

Njagi said the bigger risk for farmers and the country is flooding. He said there will be more intensity in rains meaning we will be getting more water

If the soils are unable to drain, then there will be flooding.

“The expected damage will depend on when the intensity is coming. So far, because the crop is still developing, there is no damage and the crop looks very good on the farm," Njagi said.

"But if the intensity continues throughout the season, you will find that by next month, beans will be damaged and will start disappearing."

Beans will be washed out because most pulses are currently in the flowering stage. When there is too much rain during the flowering stage, the crop will not develop or most of them will rot. This will lead to some losses.

Some long-duration crops like maize are okay okay but things could change around August,” Njagi.

He urged the national and county governments to avail storage facilities to farmers as most of them do sun-drying as they lack grain driers.

“I urged farmers to also invest in storage to help reduce post-harvest losses. If your grains like maize or beans are mature, you do not have to wait for them to dry in the field. You can harvest them and dry them in a grain drier because if you allow them to dry naturally, they are likely to rot,” he said.  

(Edited by V. Graham)

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