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 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.
Workers at the Maralal National Cereals and Produce Board depot yesterday