In­sect-proof bags to pre­vent ‘Osama’ from at­tack­ing ce­re­als

A na­tion­wide cam­paign sup­ported by USAid will pop­u­larise the use of the gunny bags, which are fit­ted with plas­tic lin­ings to con­trol pests with­out the use of chem­i­cals

The Star (Kenya) - - Politics Ministries - JOHN MUCHANGI @jo­munji

The in­sect-proof bags launched this week will stop the loss of about five mil­lion bags of maize an­nu­ally, mostly to a no­to­ri­ous pest nick­named ‘Osama’, the Agri­cul­ture min­istry has said.

A na­tion­wide cam­paign sup­ported by USAid will pop­u­larise the use of the gunny bags, which are fit­ted with plas­tic lin­ings to con­trol pests with­out the use of chem­i­cals.

Agri­cul­ture CS Willy Bett said the her­metic bags can con­trol all pests, in­clud­ing the large stalk borer, which farm­ers call Osama, be­cause it is dif- fi­cult to elim­i­nate. “We ex­pe­ri­ence 20 per cent to 30 per cent loss, es­pe­cially in ce­re­als, ev­ery year due to pests and poor stor­age,” he said. The bags ap­ply sim­ple tech­nol­ogy, starv­ing in­sects of oxy­gen, lead­ing to suf­fo­ca­tion.

This elim­i­nates both the in­sects and mold by de­plet­ing oxy­gen lev­els and pro­duc­ing car­bon diox­ide within the stor­age unit. “I took part in ef­fi­cacy tri­als of bags of this tech­nol­ogy and I can con­firm that it works against all types of pests,” Bett said on Wednes­day.

The cam­paign is sup­ported by the USAid through the Kenya Agri­cul­tural Value Chain En­ter­prises Project.

Each 90kg bag costs about Sh250 and dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers in Kenya say it can be reused for up to five sea­sons. Kenyans con­sume about 40 mil­lion bags of maize ev­ery year, and ex­perts es­ti­mate that if post-har­vest losses are re­duced, the coun­try would save mil­lions of shillings in food im­ports.

Kenya Agri­cul­tural Re­search and Live­stock Or­gan­i­sa­tion deputy di­rec­tor Felis­ter Makini said all types of grains can be stored in the bags if they are com­pletely dried.

“The dry food can last more than one year with­out go­ing bad. This is a cheaper stor­age al­ter­na­tive for farm­ers,” she said.

Michael Ni­chol­son, act­ing head of eco­nomic growth at USAid, said the bags will in­crease amounts of food avail­able for con­sump­tion. “In 2014 USAid tested 2,000 bags and tri­als con­firmed ef­fec­tive­ness in en­tirely elim­i­nat­ing wastage,” he said.

Dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers have been pro­duc­ing the bags in Kenya for sev­eral years, but this will be the first time they are pop­u­larised in a na­tional cam­paign.

A typ­i­cal bags looks and func­tions a lot like the polypropy­lene bags that farm­ers al­ready use, but it con­sists of one or two sep­a­rate plas­tic lay­ers that make it both tougher and able to keep out oxy­gen when each layer is tied with a cord.

It is es­ti­mated that Africa loses more than four bil­lion dol­lars an­nu­ally in post-har­vest grain losses due to lack of proper stor­age fa­cil­i­ties.

/MARTIN FUNDI

Work­ers at the Mar­alal Na­tional Ce­re­als and Pro­duce Board de­pot yes­ter­day

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