Somali Agricultural Technical Group (SATG) – Post-harvest and Grain Storage Losses

Agricultural production in Somalia suffers greatly from post-harvest and storage grain losses: average grain losses in Southern Somalia are estimated at 20 to 30% of the total harvest, and may exceed this figure in some cases. This loss is on the order of 50,000 to 80,000 tonnes per year, which translates to an economic loss of between US $15 million and $20 million. In addition to the economic loss, poor grain storage and handling practices can constitute a health risk, as improperly stored grain is vulnerable to moulds containing Aflatoxins, highly poisonous chemical compounds. These are losses and risks which the poverty-stricken agricultural communities of Southern Somalia cannot sustain.

Sorghum, a staple food crop in Somalia, is badly affected by grain losses of this kind. Sorghum growing farmers traditionally store grain retained for future consumption or trade in simple underground storage pits. Pests, rodents and other micro-organisms attack the grains in storage leading to depletion and deterioration in the grain quantity and quality. Moisture penetrates into the storage pits, resulting in fungus growth and Aflatoxin contamination. The resultant losses contribute to food shortages, and the Aflatoxin contamination represents a potentially fatal health risk.

In order to ascertain the exact causes of the losses, SATG conducted a baseline survey in the Bay Region to study the two grain loss high-risk areas: post-harvest handling practices and traditional storage systems. The survey reveals that grain losses associated with the traditional storage systems (underground pits) are significantly higher than those associated with post-harvest techniques (harvesting, transportation, and drying), at an estimated 40% and 20% respectively.

SATG has generated several solutions for the grain loss problems affecting Somali agriculture.

Rehabilitation of the old system: SATG has trained local farmers in fortifying the inner walls and floors of the traditional pit with cement, and using plastic lining to prevent moisture damage.

Introduction of a new system: SATG has adapted the design of a locally popular metal water-storage tank to create a metal grain silo which can easily be manufactured within the target communities.

Post-harvest and grain storage loss reduction is the target of an on-going project being implemented by SATG in collaboration with FAO.

This piece is taken from the website of the Somali Agricultural Technical Group (SATG).

See on-line at: http://www.satg.org/work/agriculture/grain-storage/

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