Reducing Post-Harvest Losses While Improving Health

Bartholomew Sey

Short Course Award: Post-harvest Management of Maize, Rice and Legumes, 2012

This story forms part of the 2017 Outcomes Study. Alumni were selected to share their Most Significant Change as a result of the Australia Awards program.

Bal 3In 2012, and before, the Department of Agriculture in Ghana estimated that about 55% of farmers viewed post-harvest losses as the greatest threat to their progress. To mitigate this, most farmers used poisonous agro-chemicals to manage the adverse effects of storage pests, such as grain weevils. Use of chemicals resulted in serious health implications for both humans and animals. Some grain farmers found that their efforts were futile and withdrew from grain cultivation. Most grain farmers (in Eastern Ghana) live in poverty and face challenges to food safety and security. Further, there are high unemployment rates for youth.

As a District Agricultural Officer with the Department of Agriculture in Kwahu Mpraeso in Eastern Ghana, I had the privilege to study a three-month Australia Award short course in Post-Harvest Management of Maize, Rice and Legumes. The course was delivered by the University of Sydney and co-hosted by the Universities of Stellenbosch, South Africa and Nairobi in Kenya. As part of my reintegration action plan, my primary objective was to contribute to the reduction of post-harvest losses of grains, mainly maize, and change the traditional way of grain storage by farmers, sellers and consumers.

Bal2With my improved skills and knowledge in post-harvest management, I could educate farmers on the proper post-harvest management of maize to improve their livelihoods. I initially targeted a limited number of farmers through field and home farm visits. Farmers were not willing to let go of the traditions transferred to them by their ancestors. Super grain bags are a type of grain storage bag that store maize and other cereals without using any chemical preservatives. When I received an Australia Alumni Small Grant, I scaled-up activities to introduce and train farmers on the use of super grain bags to reduce the enormous post-harvest losses in the district.

In scaling up my efforts, I initially conducted community sensitisation workshops, collected data on farmers, prepared training and reference materials, developed participation certificates, and created awareness through radio segments. I organised a training of trainers’ workshop for my colleagues to enable them to train farmers in their operational areas. With support from my colleagues in registering farmers and as the lead training facilitator we distributed post-harvest starter kits to farmers. I introduced and trained 388 farmers on the use of super grain bags to reduce the post-harvest losses of grains in 21 communities comprising of 127 women, 259 men and two people living with a disability.  With funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), there was a distribution of 311 super grain bags to farmers.

Beneficiary farmers have not only adopted this technology but are implementing it. The use of super grain bags has resulted in farmers reducing significant losses while increasing production and income. The training had a positive impact on the environment since farmers who used unrecommended and poisonous chemicals have discontinued from this practice. Currently, there is a high demand for super grain bags as there are advantages over traditional cultivation methods.  Although it is too early to quantify the reduction rate in post-harvest losses, anecdotal evidence shows that the situation is better than before.

This change is significant because in my District, and in Ghana; maize is one of the food security crops that both humans and livestock depend on for survival. Farmers are now able to contribute to food security while generating small revenues that enable them to educate their children.

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