Protecting farmers’ livelihoods through improved grain storage

The problem: Profit losses due to crop storage constraints

Grain storage loss can cost farmers 25%-30% of their yield for the season due to moisture, insects, mold, mildew, and rodents. In Zimbabwe, 14 million people depend on stored grains for consumption. The World Bank (2014) estimates up to 9.5 million people (67.5%) reside in rural areas where farmers experience high storage losses of grains and grain legumes that are the main staple. Due to unreliable storage options that consist of using discarded sacks and basins, many farmers are forced to sell their crops at harvest time when prices are at their lowest, and pay higher prices later in the year to purchase maize grain back for food. Luckily, this latter double tragedy is being addressed by the Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP) in Guruve district in Mashonaland Central Province where Peak Trading, a the Market Development (MD) grantee is working alongside the ENTERPRIZE consortium partner of the Agricultural Productivity and Nutrition (APN) component to improve post harvest management of grain for better incomes and for food security. Peak Trading avails the metal silos at a price from US$250 for a 2 tonne capacity storage of grain and

 The solution: Hermetic bags and metal silo grain storage technology

In Guruve district, the LFSP’s ENTERPRIZE consortia is running a pilot demonstration of the hermetic bag and metal silo technology in Ward 5 at Nyangavi Farmer Field School. At the school other farmers are able to compare these new storage technologies to their traditional practices of storing grain and make informed decisions on which method to adopt.

Ms. Forget Mubvumba a field officer involved in farmer training to support the adoption of the technology cautions that it is important for farmers to use the easy ‘salt method’ to determine that the grain is at or below 15% moisture content before storage. She says, “Dry salt will absorb moisture from grain. This principle can be used to help determine whether a grain sample has a moisture content of above or below 15%. When the moisture content of the cleaned grain is determined to be 15% and below, it is ready to be placed into storage.” This is determined when the salt does not stick on the grain within 24 hours of drying.

The metal silo has a storage capacity of 2 tonnes of grain while the hermetic bags can store grain from 5Kg and above depending on size.

The potential: Cost effectiveness, impacts, and implications

In fostering the adoption of hermetic bag and metal silo use, the ENTERPRIZE consortium partner was introduced to Peak Trading, a Market development Partner were introduced to Guruve farmers under the LFSP to buy the maize grain throughout all seasons. This has boosted the farmer confidence as they can now sell their grain both in and out of season at a premium.

Hermetic bags with a capacity of 50kg cost about US$3 which is affordable and cost effective compared to other methods they used that required buying chemicals to treat their grain before storage. The amount of chemical required for a similar 50kg bag over the same period is about US$5. Hermetic bag and metal silo storage does not require additional treatment of grain with chemicals before storage.

Effective use of the hermetic bags and metal silos is helping to reduce grain storage loss from 25-30% to 5-10%. Additionally, longer storage of grain ensures more incomes for the farmer and their household out of season in order to meet other livelihood needs such as paying children’s school fees.

Key Facts: The LFSP, ENTERPRIZE, postharvest demonstration impact, Peak Trading, maize grain costs

  • The Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP) is improving the food security and nutrition of smallholder farmers and rural communities in Zimbabwe. It aims to help 349,000 Zimbabweans by 2018. LFSP works in eight districts, which were selected based on poverty levels, food insecurity, the prevalence of stunting and the potential for market development. Districts where other donor-funded programmes related to livelihoods and food security are being implemented were excluded. LFSP is funded by the UK government.
  • Improved grain storage, provision of technical support to farmers and linking farmers to markets through the Market Development (MD) component are some the key outcomes of the ENTERPRIZE projects benefiting farmers under the LFSP’s APN component.
  • ENTERPRIZE (Ensuring Nutrition, Transforming and Empowering Rural Farmers and Promoting Resilience in Zimbabwe) is a consortium led by World Vision that works with farmers to increase their access to technical support. ENTERPRIZE operates in Mt.Darwin and Guruve.
  • 66 lead farmers have adopted the metal silo technology with a capacity to store 132 tonnes of grain for sale in and out of season by prolonging its shelf life by more than 6 months.
  • Peak Trading is a Zimbabwean grain trading company that specializes in procurement of rural produce for resale to agro-processors, SMEs, NGOs and the informal sector. The company has developed the idea of Mobile Buying Stations (MBS). This concept is designed to address current deficiencies in rural logistics and transport infrastructure in marginal grain producing areas.
  • Maize cereal costs US$310/tonne in Guruve and soya US$530/tonne.
  • The 2 tonne metal silo costs between US$250 and US$350 and up to 20 farmers are able to pool their resources to acquire one. Peak Trading offers payment terms to farmers so that they are able to procure these silos.
  • Electronic payments are instantly made to the sellers using Ecocash (a nationwide mobile banking facility in Zimbabwe).
  • Hermetic bag and metal silo storage also help improve the resilience of farming households to harsh climatic conditions such as winter and drought where only certain kinds of crops grow well.

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