The center brings Iowa State expertise together with indigenous knowledge to foster solutions to the region’s low crop yield and devastating amounts of post-harvest loss. Resulting strategies have enabled many farmers to meet their families’ nutritional needs for the first time, diversify their families’ diets and earn an income through the sale of excess produce.
CSRL Impacts in 2018:
- Full-time postharvest technology specialist hired to oversee maize-handling and other crop storage initiatives
- Teachers and cooks trained in proper maize drying and storage
- Mold- and insect-free maize sourced from collaborating farmers for use in NECs and schools
- Smallholder farmers trained in proper postharvest practices
- Microloan program launched, allowing smallholder farmers to purchase hermetic grain storage silos
Imagine Losing Half of All the Crops You Harvest...
That can be the reality for many small farmers in the Kamuli District. Up to 50 percent of the grain harvest — including maize — can be lost in storage because of mold and insect infestation. Aflatoxin produced by molds can make maize unsafe.
“Often, farmers don’t have a good way to dry their maize, they don’t have a good way to tell when the grain is dry enough to store and they don’t have a good way to store it,” said Tom Brumm, an associate director for CSRL.
Not having safe, reliable storage methods means that many farmers are forced to sell maize immediately after harvest; often for low prices. According to Brumm, these losses can be the difference between having the funds to pay their children’s school fees or going hungry.
In response, ISU is implementing a storage system to increase the safety of the grain. Fifty-five gallon, hermetically sealed plastic containers eliminate oxygen and asphyxiate weevils. ISU results demonstrate 100 percent effectiveness of weevil control in the sealed barrels. ISU also has preliminary results for strategies to control mold, and the next step is to discover ways to fund and conduct trials in Uganda.
In 2018, ISU-UP launched a postharvest outreach program. This program includes postharvest practices training for farmers, a microfinance program to help farmers purchase storage containers and sourcing safe maize to ensure that infants and children in Nutrition Education Centers and schools receive uncontaminated food.
To help create, guide and implement the program, ISU-UP hired Thomas Buyinza as a postharvest technology specialist. Buyinza oversees grain storage and safety, implementing strategies and working with smallholder farmers to reduce postharvest losses.
“Maize serves as a staple crop globally and as a means of food security for many communities, including Kamuli,” said Rachael Barnes, an ISU student who helped conduct postharvest loss research in 2017. “By focusing on the community’s perception of mold and aflatoxins in maize, the ISU-Uganda Program can enhance the district’s health and well-being.”
Photo Credit: Brian Nonnecke
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