Traditional storage practices can leave staple grains vulnerable to pest infestations and grain pathogens, leading to post-harvest losses of up to 20-30% (Tefera et al. 2011). 1 The threat can push smallholder farmers into a poverty trap, where they are forced to sell their grain immediately due to the risk of spoilage, only to buy it back at a greater price a few months later (Ibid). Additionally, pest attacks have been linked to mycotoxin contaminations and poisoning, which make the grain unsafe for food and feed, further reducing food security (Ibid). Insecticides to address pest outbreaks are often prohibitively expensive or unavailable to smallholder farmers (Ibid).
Hermetically sealed metal silos are a simple yet effective technology which can protect grains from invading insects and animals, and keeps the grain safe for long periods of time. Through the "Effective Grain Storage for Sustainable Livelihood of African Farmers" project in Zimbabwe and Zambia, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) with funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, aims to bring reductions in post-harvest losses through improvements in grain storage technology, which can enhance food security, improve incomes, and reduce the vulnerability of resource-poor farmers (CIMMYT 2014). 2
Relationship to CSA
- Productivity: Effective storage can provide substantial gains to food security as well as improve agricultural incomes, by allowing farmers to hold their stocks and sell them when market conditions are most favourable.
- Adaptation: As the metal silo can store produce such as maize and bean for up to three years, farmers can put aside food reserves to prepare for climate change induced crop failures. EGSP also increases resilience to pests and diseases, which can spread as a result of climate change.
- Mitigation: By reducing post-harvest losses, improved storage increases food security without the need for increases in production. This can relieve pressure to expand the area under cultivation or utilize more intensive farming practices, which can both be environmentally taxing.
Impacts and lessons learned
Reducing post-harvest losses is an effective way of increasing food production efficiency and improving food security. However, further cooperation among government organizations, NGOs, manufacturers, and farmers is needed to realise the full potential of this intervention.
Tefera T et al. 2011. The metal silo: An effective grain storage technology for reducing post-harvest insect and pathogen losses in maize while improving smallholder farmers’ food security in developing countries. Crop Protection 30(3):240-245.http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cropro.2010.11.015 Traditional storage practices in developing countries cannot guarantee protection against major storage pests of staple food crops like maize, leading to 20–30% grain losses, particularly due to post-harvest insect pests and grain pathogens. As a result, smallholder farmers end up selling their grain soon after harvest, only to buy it back at an expensive price just a few months after harvest, falling in a poverty trap. The potential impact on poverty reduction and greater livelihood security will not be realized, however, if farmers are unable to store grains and sell surplus production at attractive prices. Apart from causing quantitative losses, pests in stored grain are also linked to aflatoxin contamination and poisoning. To address this problem, a metal silo was developed as a valid option and proven effective in protecting stored grains from attack by storage insect pests. A metal silo is a cylindrical structure, constructed from a galvanized iron sheet and hermetically sealed, killing any insect pests that may be present. The impact of metal silo technology in Africa, Asia and Latin America includes, improving food security, empowering smallholder farmers, enhancing income opportunities and job creation, and safeguarding the agro-ecosystems. The metal silo can be fabricated in different sizes, 100 kg–3000 kg holding capacity by trained local artisans, with the corresponding prices of $35 to $375. The use of metal silo, therefore, should be encouraged in order to prevent storage losses and enhance food security in developing countries.
CIMMYT. 2013. Effective Grain Storage Project (EGSP).http://www.cimmyt.org/from-kenya-to-southern-africa-effective-grain-storage-crosses-borders/ Maize is core to food security, rural development and poverty reduction in eastern and southern Africa (ESA). Lack of appropriate grain storage technologies results in significant losses due to post-harvest pests (the larger grain borer, LGB, and the maize weevil), undermines food security, forces farmers to sell maize when prices are low, and blocks value addition and credit opportunities to poor households. The project targets and experimentally implements the “POSTCOSECHA” metal silo approach for improved grain storage in selected pilot areas and countries of ESA. It is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and draws on the highly successful experiences in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Apart from initiating the program in Africa, the project will provide SDC and other potential investors with conclusive insights on the viability, impact potential and actual scale-out pathway for a longer-term program in ESA.