by James Kamuye Kataru

How prepared are farmers to cut post-harvest losses?

In this blog post, I want to talk to farmers who’ve had prior training and knowledge of the SAWBO Animation videos on handling grain produce from their farms. I also want to talk to those who haven’t watched the videos but are reading this blog and inform them it’s very possible for them to access and use knowledge in the animation videos to handle their farm produce and cut down on losses they’ve incurred every harvest time. I want to remind farmers that these educative videos are in Swahili and can be downloaded from and watched on smart phones. I therefore encourage readers to download and share these videos with friends and family via Bluetooth, Xender, WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages. For those that can access laptops and cyber cafes, download the SAWBO videos and store them on flash disk then watch them at home on family TV screens. Hey guys, go build yourself a nice library of SAWBO videos on Agriculture, Health and Women’s empowerment, then keep watching them to improve on your practices in requisite fields.

Back to the harvest awaiting us on our farms.

Most farmers who rely on rain-fed agriculture agree that the short season crop (June-December) doesn’t produce much harvest like the long rain season, every February-May of each year. This calls for prudent handling of harvests to guarantee quality grains, better market prices, and good seed for the next planting season. Better harvest handling also ensures enough food for the family to last to the next harvest.

A maize crop that will be ready for harvest in two weeks’ time. Picture courtesy of Kataru Concepts.

There is nothing as annoying as seeing grains rot or get wasted due to poor handling when a farmer used a lot of resources on their farm to ensure a vibrant crop and guarantee a bumper harvest. In the meantime, let’s remind ourselves several steps and ways recommended in the SAWBO videos that you can use to manage your grain harvest and cut on post-harvest loses including;

  1. Proper drying of grain: Grains have to be properly dried to reduce chances of mold growing in the grain. Proper drying increases grain storage life and fetches higher market prices. The first recommendation is to use a locally built high velocity solar grain dryer as explained in the videos Postharvest Loss: How to build a solar grain dryer and Postharvest Loss: How to use a solar grain dryer.These two videos will teach you how to build and use a high velocity grain dryer.
Image of a high velocity solar grain dryer. Picture courtesy of SAWBO website

Testing moisture content levels: Before you store any grains, you need to determine the right moisture content. Overly dry grains result in weight loss, while wet grains result in challenges like fungal growth, insect problems and germination. Farmers should test their grain moisture content before storing to ensure it’s low enough. The procedure explained in the video Postharvest loss: Salt testing for grain moisture levels utilizes salt to help determine the moisture level of your grains.

Grain storage:  After testing the grain moisture content, it’s important to store the grain using best practices for bag storage. In this case I advise farmers to watch the video titled Postharvest Loss: Storage, in which a farmer is taught how to prepare for storage, how to transport grains and store the bags properly. It’s in storage that pests wreak havoc to the grains and destroy their quality. A good example of pests are weevils, which if they enter a bag of maize, multiply fast and destroy the grain in a short time.

Image showing proper stacking of grain bags in a store. Picture courtesy of SAWBO website.

For other crops that farmers harvest in smaller quantities, like beans, ground nuts, soya beans and Bambara nuts, I advise them to use the jerrycan bean storage technique explained in the video Postharvest loss: hermetic sealing with locally available containers. This stops insect damage when storing grains in locally available airtight containers for long periods of time. Farmers should use clean containers that are free from contaminations such as pesticides and engine oils.

  • Grain transport: In case a farmer or trader in grains wants to transport their harvest to distant markets, there are ways of doing so without destroying the grain. Most traders prefer buying from farms and storing groceries in go-downs and stores in town centers closer to their markets. Other large scale farmers transport their harvest to government grain buying centers where the grains are checked for moisture content, quality, and weight, factors that determine the grading and price the grain fetch per kilo. That’s why it’s very important for such grains to be transported with care. In the SAWBO video Postharvest Loss: Bag transportation the procedure to transport grains using best practices for bag transportation is explained. It teaches us how to prepare the truck beds and how to use tarps to minimize post-harvest losses during transportation.
  • Bag stacking: After the grain is carefully packed in bags and transported to the store, the farmer or grain handler needs to stack them properly to avoid further losses. In the video Postharvest Loss: Bag Stacking, farmers and bulk grain handlers are taught proper bag stacking techniques to use in grain stores.

In a nutshell, proper harvest handling and grain storage eliminates post-harvest losses while increasing grain quality and the price it fetches when sold. Farmers that use SAWBO animation videos to walk through the processes stand to benefit a lot and enjoy their farming.

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