For 56 year old Yohana Isaya, a farmer from Ndurungumi village in Kongwa District, central Tanzania; maize farming was always a losing game. A stressful, but extremely important subsistence venture. Damned if he did it, damned if he didn’t. For how would he feed his family?
To begin with, shelling the maize harvest from his 5-acre plot was a back breaking job which he together with his wife and their five children couldn’t do on their own. They needed the help of at least 8 extra pairs of hands to finish the job in 3 days. Isaya would then use the traditional “Kilindo”, a small cylindrical traditional bin made from peeled miombo tree barks, to store his maize to be used sparingly for feeding his family. Most of the time, nearly half the stored maize would be moldy and inedible
What he didn’t know then, was that there was a better way. That there were new and efficient postharvest technologies that could change the zero sum game that maize farming and storage had become to a winning one.
“Before joining the Africa RISING-NAFAKA-TUBORESHE CHAKULA scaling project activities and trainings, I was using a raised wood platform for shelling maize. Usually it took me up to three days to shell 700 kilograms. We sometimes had to ask for help from our neighbors whom we’d have to compensate by providing food, local brew and sometimes cash. But, after the project trained us on using simple to use and affordable machine like the motorized maize sheller, the same kind of work now takes only 30 minutes,” explain Yohana.
But it is not only the maize shelling machines that the farmers have been introduced to. The postharvest trainings have also focused on a complete package of technologies including: collapsible drier cases capable of drying 400 Kgs of maize in five hours in the sun and storage using hermetic bags. As a result, farmers have been able to reduce the amount of time spent on crop processing, reduced food losses and improved food security in their households.
The Africa RISING-NAFAKA-TUBORESHE CHAKULA scaling project aims to scale the use of postharvest technologies among 47,000 Tanzania smallholder farmers.
Recent studies in the semi-arid areas of northern and central Tanzania have shown that: 20-40% of grains and legumes are usually lost during harvesting; a further 5% is lost during shelling-even when the amount of grains shelled per day was very small due to drudgery and lack of improved shelling technologies; a further 15-25% is lost during storage.
Practices like drying crops on bare floor also often lead to contamination and storage when the moisture contents are high leading to deterioration. It is these challenges that made the project to introduce post-harvest technologies to the Tanzania farmers.