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Farmers grappling with the challenge of making huge losses as a result of aflatoxin

SMART HARVEST
By Nathan Ochunge | May 12th 2018
Josephine Kweyu, a small-holder maize farmer and One Acre Fund communications officer Kevin Owino displaying the new storage bags known as PICs bags. The bags stores maize and other grains without using chemicals...Photo/Nathan Ochunge/Standard

Small scale farmers frequently face post-harvest losses of maize and other grains due to a number of preventable reasons.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), at least 40 per cent of food produced in Sub-Saharan Africa is lost between production and consumption.

In Kenya, farmers have been grappling with the challenge of making huge losses as a result of aflatoxin, heavy rains and weevils.

Last year, maize farmers made a loss of Sh15 billion in post-harvest losses which triggered high prices of Unga causing a food security scare.

But a new technology hopes to change this narrative. The Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICs) bags developed by One Acre Fund are simple, effective and affordable.

The fund’s official Kevin Owino said the bags can store maize for five years without going bad.

“PICs bags are made of three layers - the outer layer is a normal polypropylene packaging bag and the two inner layers are made of 80-miron thick polythene bag. No pesticides are needed to store the maize. For longer storage, just tie it three times using a rope to prevent air from getting inside,” Mr Owino said.

He added: “If any pests are inside the maize, after tying the bag three times, they will die automatically. It can store maize for maize between 2-5 years without getting bad,” he said.

Farmers shared their experience with Smart Harvest.

Josephine Khavutsi, a small-scale maize farmer from Buchina village in Kakamega County, said previously, she was getting only a sack of maize per year thanks to poor storage.

“There was a time, five bags of maize were destroyed by weevils and I made a loss of Sh14,500 as that time a 90-kg sack of maize was going at Sh2,900,” said Ms Khavutsi.

Josephine Kweyu, also a farmer, in the same village, said she used to make losses of up to 10 bags of maize every year. Kweyu said she now saves 12-15 bags that were going to losses before the introduction of PICs bags.

“I have managed to pay college fees for my two daughters from the extra maize I get. I no longer have to deal with weevils and termites that kept destroying my maize after harvesting,” she said.

 

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