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Storage bags to cut post-harvest losses

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Smallholder farmers in Lilongwe district are speaking highly of the Purdue Improved Crop Storage (Pics) bag innovation. The farmers have indicated that the bags are providing an effective way to store harvests and protect them from insects and weevils for longer periods.

The bags are new on the market and have a plastic coating inside that prevents air circulation and in the process making it difficult for crop pests such as weevils and insects to survive.

The innovation is a deviation from the common practice of applying chemicals to produce and packaging them in regular bags, in which over time, crops get attacked by weevils.

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This is coming against a background that Malawi loses about 25 percent of its grain through post-harvest loses caused by insects and aflatoxins, among others.

A farmer, Amos Divala, said the bags are efficient compared to regular storage bags. He said after a trial, where treated maize was kept in regular bags and some in the Pics bags showed that the maize in regular bags was attacked by weevils while the grains in Pics bag were resilient.

“We are happy with this innovation because it is cheap and easy to use. What one needs to do is to dry maize well to remove the moisture in the crop but when we use chemicals, there are many instructions and not all farmers understand them,” Divala said.

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Feed the Future Agriculture Diversification Project Director, Carl Larkins, said that the innovation also helps to protect people from health hazards that may come about during the application of chemicals to produce.

“Malawi uses synthetic pesticides, which may have some harmful health effects, if frequently used to treat grain. This bag, which is triple layered, basically starves the bag of oxygen, a process, which kills the insects,” Larkins said.

Commenting on the development, Director of Crop Development in the Ministry of Agriculture Irrigation and Water Development, Godfrey Ching’oma, said that the initiative complements government’s efforts to achieve its agenda for food security and economic stability.

The innovation is already gaining popularity among farmers with reports indicating that the use of the bags increased fivefold from slightly over 75,000 bags in 2016 to over 300,000 bags.

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