By Michael Olugbode in Damaturu
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has trained 300 farmers in Yobe State, North-east Nigeria on improved methods of food storage.
The training, which is in collaboration with the Agricultural Development Project (ADP) and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), is to equip the farmers with post-harvest best practices – using hermetic storage technology.
A statement by WFP on Thursday, said: “Hermetic storage bags are airtight and waterproof, allowing farmers to store and save grains from infestations or destruction by insects, rodents, mold and moisture, thus preserving them for long periods of time.”
The statement said a bag-opening ceremony on July 10, 2019 in Gashua, Yobe State, marked the highpoint of the training, which was aimed at reducing the losses suffered by farmers due to improper food storage.
The statement, citing figures by the Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), said Nigeria loses some $9 billion every year due to poor post-harvest management.
It further revealed that more than 30 per cent of staple food grains (maize, sorghum, millet) are lost due to poor storage, while 60 per cent of vegetables perish.
After the training, each of the farmers received eight specially made airtight 50 kg bags to store their grains for six months until the prices of grains rose in the market. The farmers stored cowpeas in the new airtight bags, while others stored theirs in the traditional ways.
The statement quoted Ms. Eden Guizaw, the WFP officer leading the Post-Harvest Loss Management Programme, as saying: “When the bags were opened in Gashua, the results were astonishing, as 90 per cent of the grains stored in the traditional way were lost, while 100 per cent of those stored in the hermetic (airtight) bags were intact. It was amazing; indeed, beyond my imagination.”
One of the farmers, Hajia Taannabi, was quoted to have said she recorded a huge profit in her sales by using the hermetic storage bags to preserve her grains.
Taanabi said: “I stored my grain with the hermetic bags, without losing any to infestation or rodents. I sold each mudu (measure for grains) for N400 and gained N300 on each mudu and was able to feed my family and pay my children’s school fees.”
The statement said building on the success of the pilot project, WFP will train more farmers nationwide in the use of the hermetic storage technology in the next phase of the programme – depending on the availability of funds.
“Investments in this type of training and technology are critical to making progress in reducing food insecurity over time,” Sarah Longford, Acting Country Director for WFP Nigeria, said.
Longford said WFP is also encouraging local businesses by supporting the production in Nigeria of the hermetic storage bags by some Nigerian private enterprises.
According to her, “By promoting hermetic storage in Nigeria, WFP aims to contribute to post-harvest loss reduction and boost food security to achieve zero hunger.”