Helvetas contributes to food security and improved farming incomes by promoting the secure storage of grains. Farming families now store their food stocks in metal silos or sealable plastic sacks, where they are protected from insect pests, rodents and rot. And tinsmits are learning to build simple metal silos.
Protecting vital food stocks
A four-person Swiss household wastes roughly 240 kilograms of food per year. The reasons for that are shamefully banal: Bought too much. Forgotten in the fridge. “Use-by” dates expired. This careless waste of food does not have any dire consequences for us: we simply replace the items we’ve thrown away the next time we go shopping.
But it is different in Tanzania, where rodents, insects, fungi and rot destroy up to 30% of small farming families’ provisions of grain and legumes. The result is a risk of malnutrition and hunger in the months before the next harvest, if not before. Some families have no choice but to go into debt to buy food at exorbitant prices.
This is a serious and widespread problem, but so far Tanzania’s agricultural policy has addressed post-harvest losses marginally at best. In a project for better storage of food grains, Helvetas is helping to prevent unnecessary grain losses. Along Tanzania’s so-called Central Corridor, our advisers presented two new ways of storing food in 247 villages: metal silos produced locally of plain galvanized metal sheets and hermetic bags. In the first three years of the project, 24,900 households opted for the hermetic storage bags, the cheaper solution, while 2,100 invested in metal silos.
To meet the demand, Helvetas trained 80 tinsmiths to make metal silos, a source of up to $300 supplementary income per year. Farming equipment and supplies shops stocked up on hermetic storage bags, and metal traders organized the distribution of galvanized metal sheets. Local savings and credit groups in the villages were willing to grant microcredits for the purchase of metal silos (and plastic sacks). In the first three years, 27,000 impoverished farming families were able to store their provisions more safely. And some of the trained metalworkers could even sell silos to farmers outside the project area.
Concurrently, Helvetas supported the Ministry of Agriculture to draw up a national strategy to prevent post-harvest losses. Through a multistakeholder platform local actors could voice their concerns and their needs. The result is a strategy which clearly identifies what needs to be done to address this vital issue in a country of 55 million people and which articulates and implements concrete solutions.
This project to prevent post-harvest losses is a Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) mandate carried out by Helvetas.