Cereals in sub-Saharan Africa contribute immensely to food security. Poor storage methods and uncontrolled market dynamics have occasionally led to an increase in shortage of staple cereals occasionally leading to acute famine.
It is estimated that about 10% of cereal grains are lost in processing, improper storage methods and out-dated methods of handling. The rising population and a shift in climatic conditions have made the situation even worse.
Smaller holder farmers lose millions of tons of cereals, primarily maize to storage problems like insect pests, rodents and fungal infections. The larger grain Borer (L.G.B) and weevils are the main storage pests. Cereal storage has been a challenge to many small holder farmers in the region for a long time. Maize once harvested is dried on open ground sometimes picking up contamination.
I therefore intend to improvise a simple storage technique using used metals drums and plastic drums which are cheap and locally available. This storage method has proven to be effective for small scale farmers in rural areas.
The objectives of my project are to:
- To increase food production by reducing post-harvest losses, ensuring food security in sub-Saharan Africa
- To ensure an efficient, cheap, reliable and affordable storage technique to small-scale farmers.
From this project I would expect the outcomes to be (i) increased income for the small scale farmer; (ii) increased food production and food security and, (iii) increased awareness of cereal storage methods and post-harvest pest control.
The methodology I plan to take is:
- Put the drum in a shade or under a rood on wooden platforms to avoid corrosion and exposure to sun and rain.
- Dry and clean your grains before loading into the drum
- Lead grains into the drum through the removable lid of the drum
- Lit a small candle on top of the grains if the drum is half full, as soon as it goes off, all the oxygen in the drum will be depleted.
- Do not open the drum for about 15-20 days, so that the insects and eggs can die due to lack of oxygen.
- When a sealed metal drum does not allow oxygen and water in, the internal build-up of carbon dioxide will reach a level of toxicity where it is impossible for insects and molds to survive.
The drum should be tightly sealed with a masking-tape in order to achieve a point of being air-tight. Oxygen is removed quickly by placing a plate of a small lit candle inside the drum before closing if not full. N/B: there is no de-oxygenation process applied to plastic drums oxygen depletion occurs naturally as long as it remains air-tight.
The advantages of using metal/plastic drums include:
- Easy loading of the grains due to the removable lids
- Inaccessible to rodents
- Efficient against storage insect pests
- Does not allow entry of water
- Ensure cereals stay for a long time without contamination or attack from storage pests
- Cheap to acquire and not labour intensive
- Chemical free i.e. does not involve dusting with pesticides
Mark Kipkemei, Kenya