Small-scale farming households across sub-Saharan Africa frequently face post-harvest grain losses due to a number of preventable reasons. The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimates from 2011 suggests that as much as 37 percent of food produced in sub – Saharan Africa is lost between production and consumption. Specific estimates for cereals are 20.5 percent. For post-harvest handling and storage only, the FAO estimates indicate an 8 percent figure.
These high estimates have motivated efforts to address post-harvest losses; interventions typically focus on improving on-farm grain storage techniques for small scale farmers. Relevant solutions can be found in hermetic technologies that provide effective, affordable and pest-free methods for on-farm storage. To encourage greater adoption of this technology, Pee Pee Tanzania Limited (PPTL), a regional market leader in the manufacture of packaging for agricultural produce based in Tanga, received a £500,000 grant from the UK government, through the FoodTrade East and Southern Africa programme to fast track production and dissemination of low volume hermetic bags and make them commercially viable to small scale farmers.
Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) bags are hermetic storage vessels which allow farmers to hermetically store their crops while at the same time avoiding the use of any chemicals. With a system which connects super-dealers to vendors, the PICS bag supply network spans four key areas in Tanzania: The Lake Zone, East and Central Zone, the Northern Zones and the Southern Highlands.
To date, £214,090 has been utilised, covering a range of key factors such as training (machinery, markets); hiring of critical project staff; vendor network growth; manufacturing and the establishment of a regional supply chain network for PICS bags. Utilising the FoodTrade ESA grant, PPTL has so far conducted 4 workshops for 94 existing and new business men, entrepreneurs, traders, and extension officers in order to recruit super-dealers and vendors for the PICS bags.
In the month of October, FoodTrade ESA got in touch with several certified vendors and super dealers in efforts to understand some of the early benefits and experiences ofin using PICs bags.
Sharing her experience during an interview with FoodTrade ESA, Catherine Thomas, a vendor of PICS bags in Mbogwe district in Geita region, said that her business is booming as more farmers and food vendors are using the new bags and no longer need chemicals to control grain storage pests.
“Farmers in my district encountered losses from weevil attacks when using other bags that contain chemicals. Thanks to the hermetic system of storage adapted in these nonchemical grain storing bags, we have seen a huge difference. Using PICS bags has proven that insects have no chance of making their way into the bags as they die of oxygen deprivation after three to five days,” said the mother of six children who uses her bicycle to distribute the bags to customers in remote areas of Mbogwe. She went on to say, “I can confidently say that these bags were intended for smallholder farmers. It makes our lives both efficient and flexible as we can store our produce in the bags at any time and be assured that our produce will last. When we need to feed our families, or sell it, it is readily available and results in a decent amount of income. This is remarkable.”
Charles Ndibalema, a dealer based in Chato district, Geita region, who use flyers to market his business, said that farmers find the use of PICS bags to be the most cost effective and trusted way for grain storage.
“A decent number of farmers now use this new storing technology. A few of those who are reluctant to use the PICS bags have to sell their produce soon after harvest, denying them an opportunity to leverage on price fluctuation and generate income throughout the year,” he said.
Martha Zongo, a PICS vendor in Bariadi district, Simiyu region, said that the technology helps improve food availability, as well as increase incomes of smallholder farmers and food vendors.
“Food vendors are some of my biggest clients. They are delighted at how PICS bags enable them to store their produce for a period of more than three years after harvest, and sell the crops when the market makes business sense,” she remarked.
Thanks to PPTL, several hermetic bag products are currently available in the regional market, which is rapidly evolving to meet the growing demand from small-scale farmers.
Improving livelihoods through maize farming: Musoma Foods Company Ltd.
Maize is the main staple food in Tanzania and contributes significantly towards income for many households. However, the livelihoods of small holder farmers are being threatened by degraded, nutrient-starved soils and farmers’ limited access to fertilisers or improved maize seed.
As a result, the situation poses the danger of exacerbating food insecurity in the region. Despite the risks, the crop is still grown mainly by smallholder and medium-scale farmers, using traditional techniques, resulting in yields which are significantly lower than the potential that the land holds.
Musoma Food Company Limited (MFCL) hopes to change this trend. MFCL is a Tanzania based company that was awarded a £329,451 grant by the UK Government through the FoodTrade East and Southern Africa Challenge Fund to mitigate some of these issues and improve value chain coordination.
The company has set up the Sustainable Quality Maize (SQM) project, supporting smallholder maize farmers to increase their business efficiency, and ultimately enhancing their productivity and quality of produce. Adherence to quality involves training on acceptable East African cereal and grain quality parameters, with the aim of strengthening farmers in the area of good agronomic practice, post-harvest handling and business skills. The maize farmer training programme offered by MCFL, with support from FoodTrade ESA, has already resulted in the increase of maize production from 6 bags per acre to over 30 bags per acre in the four areas its working with.
Currently, MFCL is the leading supplier of local maize flour in the Lake Zone area, with their main markets being Tanzania National Food Reserve (NFRA), domestic wholesalers and cross border traders mostly from Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi.
“The maize farmer training programme aims to incubate the next generation of agricultural entrepreneurs who will create viable farming businesses and eradicate the perception that farming is not a commercial activity,” explains MFCL Project Manager, Stephano Mpangala.
He explains that the project seeks to impart capacity to some 3,500 maize farmers, with the objective of contributing to the overarching goal of increased productivity and improved food security in the region. Citing their accomplishments, Mpangala pinpointed that since they started offering farmer training, they have provided farming and agribusiness classes to more than 2,800 farmers, supporting them to produce commercial market grade products.
“Farmers are trained in the field and in classrooms where expert farmers and agricultural extension officers provide them with modern farming techniques, necessary tools and resources to improve the quality and quantity of their yields” he explains. As a result, one of the Farmer Groups, the Kalola Farmers association Group (KFG) is now constructing an aggregation warehouse in anticipation of bumper harvests.
The team had an opportunity to meet one of the small holder farmers who has benefitted from the project. Mama Rukia Ndibato, based in Tabora, has undergone extensive training with MFCL. During the meeting, she talked about how the training has helped her improve her post-harvest handling practices, exposing her to new markets for her surpluses and improving her livelihood.
‘’I can confidently say that the results from the training are tangible. I used to harvest about 18 bags from a three acre piece of land, but after undergoing the intensive agricultural training, I now harvest over 60 bags from the same piece of land!’’
According to Rukia, the importance of the skills learned cannot be understated. “Previously, I typically produced to feed my family but failed to gain revenues from selling my produce. The Musoma Foods training programme titled ‘Agriculture is Business’ provided me with techniques on how to commercialise agriculture, and benefitted many other small scale farmers as well. Now, me and my family have food for self-sufficiency, and we still remain with surplus for selling, ’I am now one of the most successful lead farmers and among the women in the village, she added.
In Tanzania, food security is impacted by post-harvest losses, which is one of the major challenges that small holders farmers face within the various agri-value chains. MCFL has worked to provide post-harvest solutions by training farmers.
According to Mama Rukia, “Before the training, we were not cognizant to the fact that we were losing a decent amount of our yields during harvesting. It was an eye-opener for most of us. We were provided with trainings on how to prevent losses right from harvest to the market.’’ She went on to say that through the training, they were educated on the importance of using motorized maize shellers, which is not labor intensive and is also less time consuming. “Using these techniques, we are no longer losing money.’’
MCFL also seeks to provide farmers with a guaranteed market for their crops, and ensure that they receive maximum benefits from them. “MFCL acts as the anchor buyer in the northern market. We are currently buying the maize from farmers, packaging the end product, and selling it to different markets,’’ explained Mpangala, who added that the company is currently set to start selling its products to other East Africa countries including Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, opening up access to regional markets for the farmers.
‘’We believe this project will go a long way to benefit all parties involved; farmers will now increase their yields and income which in turn will improve their livelihood, and we will also grow our business by producing and selling the best food products in the East African market which improve the health of consumers,’’ he noted.
Afritec Seeds Ltd Promotes Sustainable Seed Supply Infrastructure in East Africa
A new rice seed – that has the potential to increase the domestic supply of the grain by 60 percent – is being developed and produced by Afritec Seeds Ltd (Afritec): a grantee under the UK-funded FoodTrade East and Southern Africa’s 2nd Challenge Fund. The hybrid rice is said to have three times more yield potential than ordinary rice seed seeds.
Whilst the firm finalises its license agreement to operate as a seed producer and merchant for small-scale farmers in five target counties in Kenya, FoodTrade ESA spoke to Ken Asango, Regional Manager at Afritec, to share more insights into the importance of incorporating hybrid rice varieties into the rice breeding industry in East Africa.
A lack of access to quality seeds remains a big challenge for smallholder farmers in Kenya, limiting their incomes. Whilst uptake on improved varieties is increasing in the region, there are still a lot of farmers reluctant to plant new varieties. Many farmers remain fearful of change and prefer to stick with methods that are familiar – despite experiencing low yields. Afritec’s goal is to provide hybrid seeds (which are formed by crossbreeding different seeds of rice) to as many farmers as possible to cushion them against the devastating effects of drought and famine and give them higher incomes
Expounding on the benefits of switching from low yielding local varieties, Mr Asango explains, “The informal seed system in Kenya constantly leaves our farmers with few choices. As a business, our mission is to encourage farmers to diversify their produce and adopt improved crop varieties. This is a sustainable approach to breaking an endless cycle of poverty, as improved seeds lead to higher crop yields and are resistant to the constant barrage of plant pests, drought, and disease that are the enemies of agriculture everywhere.”
Mr Asango admits that the upfront costs of purchasing the seed, plus limited knowledge around the new technology can hinder farmer adoption of the product. However, he explains their rationale, “Our strategy for pricing is value based. Yes, our seeds are more expensive and cannot be replanted, but farmers will have a net return of close to 200% over their investment in the seed, and their yields will be substantially higher.”
Afritec, together with FoodTrade East and Southern Africa, works with thousands of smallholder farmers in East Africa to not only upskill the farmers with adequate training on improved technologies (via trials and Farmer Field Schools), but also with assistance in purchasing the seeds, which farmers can pay back post-harvest. Afritec has also found that the greatest proof point for potential farmers is physically seeing the outcomes of hybrid rice growing, which in Kenya can take as little as 3 months.
With the Kenyan market heavily saturated with rice imports from the Far East – particularly Pakistan – Mr Asango points out that hybrid technology had revolutionised rice production in Asia, and could be the start of a similar rice revolution in East Africa, provided that local farmers are also exposed to better farm inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers in order to compete with the farmers in Pakistan. Afritec hopes to assist in creating better structures to ensure that when local farmers have harvested, they have access to a market to sell.
Speaking on the overall benefits that Afritec has seen since beginning its operations two years ago, Mr Asango highlights how consumers can also be positively affected by the hybrid rice technology. “If local farmers are producing more product, we should see a surplus in the market, leading to easier accessibility of the price and therefore lower prices for the consumers. This will be key as rice is now more popular than ever, and there is a massive opportunity for local farmers to capture the market.”
G-Soko’s Online Trading Auction Takes Place for the First Time in Tanzania.
On the 6th of October 2016, the EAGC GSoko trading module went live in Tanzania and the first historical online trade auction was held. The online trading took place at the Peace of Mind Resort in Mbeya, Tanzania. Three companies, all EAGC members, bided to buy the listed commodity on offer from two RUDI Commercial GSoko certified warehouses. The bidders were Raphael Group Ltd. Unyiha Associates Ltd. and G2L Company Ltd. The commodities listed in the catalogue for sale were 540,000kgs of paddy rice at a reserve price of Tshs 850/kg, and 38,000kgs of white maize at a reserve price of Tshs 500/kg. The successful bid came from Raphael Group Ltd. Which bid at Tshs 650/kg for 10MT for paddy rice. After further negotiation with the seller, the price was lowered to prevailing market price levels. The highest bid for maize received was Tshs. 450/kg, which was below the reserve price.