The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has launched a three-year initiative to reduce post-harvest losses of cereals and beans in sub-Saharan Africa through expanding the use of threshers and air-tight sacks.

According to AGRA President Dr Agnes Kalibata, the project is being launched in Mozambique and Burkina Faso, focusing on reducing losses of cowpea and soybean.

It is estimated that almost a third of the grains and legumes harvested in sub-Saharan Africa are lost because of poor storage and limited processing capacity.

Speaking at the project launch in Nairobi recently, Kalibata argued that innovative technologies are available to reduce losses.

She added: “For more than 70 per cent of Africans drawing their livelihoods from agriculture, finding sustainable solutions to the problem holds tremendous promise for enhancing economic growth, food security.”

She added that “scaling up of simple technologies like hermetic storage bags can reduce post-harvest losses by up to 50 per cent and significantly increase farmers’ income”.

“The deployment of mechanised threshers will also reduce the drudgery of farming, which is especially important for women who are the majority of farmers in Africa,” she added.

The project is funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) with a grant of 2.15 million US dollars. Mozambique and Burkina Faso will be the pilot countries. In the short term, the innovations will benefit at least 10,000 smallholder farmers, with up to 60,000 farmers being involved by 2020.

The IDRC’s Regional Director for sub-Saharan Africa, Simon Carter, explained that the project would introduce inexpensive low-tech threshers which both save labour and reduce damage to crops.

Advances have also been made in developing airtight sacks which enable crops to be stored for longer periods. This both improves food security and gives farmers more leverage in negotiations with traders.

One of the best known sacks of this type is the triple layered, airtight “Purdue Improved Crop Storage” bag that enables cereals and beans to be kept without recourse to chemicals to kill pests.

AGRA is an initiative created in 2006 with the objective of boosting agricultural productivity in Africa to fight hunger and malnutrition. Among its partners are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation of the United States.

Source: Nam News Network