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New storage tech cuts post-harvest losses

Small scale farmers harvest maize in Chagaiya, Uasin Gishu County. file photo | nmg
Small scale farmers harvest maize in Chagaiya, Uasin Gishu County. file photo | nmg  

Food is one of the three basic needs. The global population of about seven billion people needs enough food of high quality.

According to FAO, the world population is predicted to hit the 9 billion mark by year 2050.

During the same period, Africa’s population is expected to double from the current 1.2 billion to 2.5 billion. To meet the food and nutrition needs of the rising population, food production will have to increase by 70 per cent, with substantial reduction in food loss and waste.

One strategy for increasing food available is to ensure proper and better use of food that has been produced.

It is estimated that one third (or 30 per cent) of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted along the supply chains globally.

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Proportionately, this translates to 1.3 billion metric tonnes of the total volume of the food produced estimated at a value of one trillion dollars per year.

The staple grain crops produced by these smallholders provide the foundation for household food security through both direct consumption and income generation.

However, postharvest grain loss significantly reduces household food security across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where, annual losses in grains alone are valued at $4 billion (Sh400bn).

This value exceeds the total food aid received in SSA over a decade and equates to the annual value of cereal imports.

Post-harvest losses occur during threshing, shelling, drying, storage, and transport which is a widely-recognised constraint to food security.

As each actor along the supply chain incurs or concedes some level of loss, minimising such losses could play an important role in reducing the volume of grain production needed to feed populations.

Loss of quality lead to loss in marketing opportunities and nutritional value and in some cases may pose serious health hazards if linked to consumption of aflatoxin contaminated produce.

These losses are attributed to inadequate appropriate storage technologies, poor post-harvest handling practices and general inefficiencies in food supply chains.

Food loss impacts on food security and nutrition in four ways: reduction of the availability of food; a negative impact on food access and raising prices of food; poor nutrition quality of food; and, negative impact on environment and climate change as factors of production are used to produce, process, handle and transport food that no one consumes.

Reduction of post-harvest losses is an important strategy to ensure food and nutritional security to improve farmers’ income in a sustainable manner.

The lost income from postharvest losses is estimated between 15-30 per cent, depending on the crop, therefore, directly impacts negatively on food and nutritional security and overall livelihoods.

Among the new entrants to the field of storage are the Hermetic Storage Technology (HST) that is an alternative method that eliminates insects and moulds by depleting oxygen levels and producing carbon dioxide within the storage unit.

The technology was initially developed through support from the USAID’s Collaborative Research Support Programme with Purdue University.

These bags, which were developed and promoted successively in Kenya through USAID-sponsored Kenya Agricultural Value Chain Enterprise aims at maintaining the quality of stored cereals after harvest.

In Kenya, the brands available include Purdue Improved Crop Storage, GrainPro-Super Grain, Zero Fly, to AgroZ Bag, and Elite bags.

Success of technology innovation and commercialisation relies on a private sector-led process of testing, learning, and adapting.

However, manufacturers and distributors of HST bags have first to address challenges like market expansion, efficient rural distribution networks, and obtaining working capital credit through financial service providers and/or innovative value chain arrangements.

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