Jane Bayitanunga, a mother of six, is a small-holder farmer in Iganga district in eastern Uganda. She mostly grows maize and beans which she uses to feed her family and then sells the excess at the market. Like many farmers in the area, Jane has been losing a significant portion of her harvest through bad storage practices.
“We took a lot of caution, harvesting our grain using baskets and tarpaulins to maintain the quality,” explained Jane. “But it was all a waste of time as when we got home we had no good place to store it and it would then get ruined by weevils or eaten by rats. If I harvested five bags, one or two would be ruined after storing for a month.”
However thanks to a post-harvest loss minimization programme funded by WFP, Jane is one of over 16,000 low income farmers to realize more from their labour through improved post-harvest practices and storage equipment. To produce high quality grain, it is essential that farming households do their postharvest handling in a proper and timely manner. The programme not only trains farmers on how to do this but is providing household storage and handling equipment on a cost sharing basis.
Following a trial late last year, where the improved storage equipment registered a 98 percent reduction in losses, WFP increasing the programme this year to assist over 16,000 farmers (mostly women) throughout Uganda. WFP is promoting the most successful options from the trial – the metallic and plastic silos and the Super Grain bags – to enable households store food for family consumption or sale. The project is aligned with a joint post-harvest loss minimization programme by the Rome-based agencies, namely WFP, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
“We are extremely happy that these silos have been introduced to us,” Jane said. “They reduce infestation and (aflatoxin) contamination, they help us keep everything that we grow and allow us to store it for as long as we want. Besides the silos themselves, we have acquired a useful new skill as we now know how to dry our grain before it can be stored well in the silos.”
Sophia Namugaya lives in Mwira village, a few kilometers away from Jane’s house. Last year, she harvested 3,000 kilos of maize grain and lost 80 percent of it to rats, contamination and infestation. Such a significant loss had a huge economic impact on the family. After acquiring her 1.3 metric ton capacity silo from WFP this year, she allocated it an entire room in her small house. She was happy to temporarily remove her roof in order to install the silo.
“This year I am confident that I will not lose any of the maize that I will store in the silo,” said Sophia with a broad smile.
The WFP project is working in several districts across eastern Uganda, some of which were affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency. David Olwoch, formerly of the internally displaced people’s camp of Kalongo in Agago, says that when he returned to his original home at the end of the LRA insurgency, there were few livelihood opportunities besides farming and yet there were no adequate means of storing his harvest.
“But now I have this (plastic) silo for household storage. I used it to store maize last year, now I am using it for my bean seeds. It is sealed and they are safe and in good condition. It keeps seeds very well for up to nine months, better than the means we used long time ago. Insects cannot enter it. I would like to buy another one, the bigger metallic type, so I can use one silo for maize and another for beans,” explained Olwoch.
Eradicating food losses throughout sub-Saharan Africa is a bold, but achievable target. By empowering farmers in countries like Uganda, WFP is assisting farming communities to achieve increased food security for many years to come.