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Metal silo artisans trained in Malawi and Kenya

CIMMYT is taking a creative approach toward reducing postharvest grain losses in sub-Saharan Africa. The Effective Grain Storage Project, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), targets and trains artisans in metal silo construction in order to provide farmers with better alternative storage solutions.

This 10-year project is in its 2-year pilot phase and currently focused in Malawi and Kenya. World Vision International, a project collaborator, trained artisans from the Dowa and Mchinji regions in Malawi 4-14 May 2009 at Lilongwe Technical College with assistance from Jose Contreras, an expert in silo construction. Covered topics included making metal silos of different sizes, cutting of metal sheets, and soldering and handling. “If anybody asks me if we have a solution to the enormous post harvest losses experienced by the farmer, I now have an answer,” said Mulugetta Abebe, director of World Vision International-Malawi.

Similar training courses held 18-29 May 2009 in Kenya targeted 10 artisans from the Homa Bay and Embu areas. Contreras and the Catholic Dioceses ran the courses at St. Bernard’s Youth Polytechnic (Homa Bay) and Embu Agricultural Staff Training College with assistance from metal silo artists Micah Okongo in Homa Bay and Benjamin Njue in Embu.

Metal silos for grain storage were successful in reducing post-harvest grain losses in Central America and provided inspiration for this project. By using the metal silos to store surplus grain, especially maize, African farmers will be able to better control post-harvest losses, stabilize supplies and prices of maize while increasing their food and income security. The technology will also increase employment and business opportunities for manufactures, traders, and processors. “The focus of the [Effective Grain Storage] project is to ensure that farmers use only well fabricated, high quality metal silos; that is why we are training the artisans who will make and sell these silos. We are promoting the technology while improving the artisans’ skills,” said Fred Kanampiu, CIMMYT agronomist and project leader who coordinated the training sessions.