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Friday, 22 May 2015

Post-harvest technologies manual to help reduce post-harvest losses

By Bob Aston
Post-harvest maize management has been a major challenge in Kenya’s agricultural sector as farmers have been experiencing high post- harvest losses. In Laikipia County, farmers lose up to 30 percent of maize harvest due to pests, diseases and rotting.  In a bid to address this problem, the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP), organized for a two days’ workshop on May 14-15, 2015 at Simbas Lodge in Nanyuki, Laikipia County to develop a Post-Harvest Technologies Training Manual.
Present during the workshop included; Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP), Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC), Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), SNV-Netherlands Development Organization, Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) and farmer representatives.
Mrs. Elizabeth Mwangi, Laikipia CDA addressing participants

Speaking while opening the workshop, Mrs. Elizabeth Mwangi, Laikipia County Director of Agriculture (CDA) said that the County government is currently developing Agriculture Service Bill and Livestock Bill to help improve the agriculture sector.
She said that maize farming takes a huge chunk of agriculture land in Laikipia County with Laikipia West Sub County being among the leading maize producing areas in the Country. She noted that with good agricultural practices farmers are able to get as much as 45 bags of maize per acre.
“I hope the manual will help reduce post-harvest losses. I hope it will be accessible to farmers and it will be something they can relate with. As a County, we are committed to reduce post-harvest losses to below 10 percent by 2017,” said Mrs. Mwangi.
She encouraged agriculture stakeholders in the County to also address issues dealing with storage and marketing as this has been a challenge particularly to smallholder farmers.
“Most farmers in the county depend on maize as staple food. It is also worth noting that maize from Laikipia West Sub County is considered among the highest grade,” said Mrs. Mwangi.
The manual is expected to help Maize Trainer of Trainers (TOT) to train 43 value chain groups in Laikipia on post-harvest management. ASDSP and other partners are currently implementing a maize concept note titled ““Formation, Legalization and Training Maize Value Chain Groups on Post-harvest Management.”
The concept note seeks to address the high post-harvest maize losses in the county by reducing it to less than 15 percent.
James Kariithi, ASDSP Laikipia County Coordinator said that they aim to transform Kenya’s agricultural sector into an innovative, commercially oriented, competitive and modern industry that will contribute to poverty reduction, improved food security and equity in rural and urban Kenya.
“We aim to achieve agricultural growth rate of 7 percent per year over the next five years. We are doing this by developing and managing key factors of production and increasing productivity, commercialization and competitiveness of the agriculture sector,” said Mr. Kariithi.
Participants following proceedings during the workshop
He noted that there are 37 agricultural value chains in Laikipia County while three value chains namely; maize, dairy and sheep and goats (Mutton and Chevron) had been prioritized by farmers in the County. He said that ASDSP had managed to form a County Steering Committee (CSC), Value Chain Platforms (VCP) and Value Chain Core Groups (VCCG) for the three prioritized value chains as well as thematic working groups (TWG).
The training manual has addressed various stages of post-harvest management that include: harvesting process; drying and shelling; storage and storage facilities at commercial level; storage and storage facilities at household level; markets and marketing; quantifying post harvesting losses; Indigenous technical knowledge (ITK) in grain storage and pest control; complaints system.
Tackling post-harvest maize losses through improved post-harvest technologies could play a big role in making food production and storage more sustainable and could make a significant contribution in ensuring Laikipia County is food secure.
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