APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY FOR GRAIN STORAGE

Report of a pilot project by the Community Development Trust Fund of Tanzania in collaboration with the Institute of Adult Education and Economic Development Bureau, and funded by the Government of the Netherlands.

The January ’79 Newsletter included an account of the contribution made by the I.A.E. to Ruvuma Region. This Report on a project carried out at the village of Bwakira Chini in Morogoro Region also demonstrates the vital contribution which can be made to effective development by the proper use of the techniques of adult education.

This project was initiated in May 1975 when it became clear that, after two disastrous years of ’73 and ’74, the Kilimo cha Kufa na Kupona campaign together with reasonable rain, would produce a reasonable harvest, so attention moved from production to storage. It was known that losses of food before, during and after harvesting could amount to between 25% and 40% of the crop. Peasant farmers were well aware of the extent of their losses and recognised improved storage as being among their most pressing needs. Clearly there was the potential for substantially increasing the amount of food available for human consumption by improving storage methods, but equally clearly, the resources were not available to provide sophisticated systems at village level. C.D.T.F. took the view that the problem should be approached by villagers using their own knowledge and skills.

Morogoro Region was selected for the project because it produces all the important grain crops grown in Tanzania. Bwakiri Chini village consisted of 270 families: it was registered and had a village council which organised the purchase and sale of crops, a workshop, a dairy herd and a retail shop. The village had no collective agriculture and there was considerable variation in the wealth of its families.

The mass adult education campaigns, using radio, had demonstrated that it was possible to use discussion groups to involve people in development activity. The project team used this experience when it met the village council to explain their objectives. The council appointed a special committee on storage which continued the dialogue with the project team. At first the villagers were reluctant to talk because they were waiting for the team to produce their solution but, as it was realised that the team had come to learn, the villagers began to explain the methods they used and their advantages and weaknesses.

After each meeting, instead of writing minutes, an artist from the I.A.E. produced a large drawing to illustrate the points which had been made; this drawing would be used to begin the discussion at the next meeting. The team soon realised that the problem was even more complex than they had imagined. Grain had to be harvested while it was still moist because, if left in the fields until dry, it would be eaten by animals, especially wild pig. But stored damp grain was very vulnerable to attack by mould, fungus and insects. Hence, if it is to he stored, grain must he dried; if this is done outside, the store must be roofed against occasional rain, but there is also the danger of theft by monkeys and humans. It is possible to dry grain by spreading it in the roof space over the cooking fire, but this can only he none with relatively small quantities and it is liable to be eaten by rats.

Some of the richer peasants had already begun experiments with improved methods of drying their grain and, through a process of discussion and demonstration, the project team, with the village storage committee, were able to suggest adaptations and improvements which everyone could adopt. The villagers were themselves involved in the exercise of trying new combinations of old ideas to improve their design. Every suggestion had to take account, not only of cost of materials and labour time, but the changes required in traditional procedures.

Less than eight weeks after the arrival of the project team in the village, the discussions had stimulated some of the villagers to implement the ideas proposed. Individuals experimented with rat-proofed sun-drying structures, fifteen raised rat-proofed storehouses (‘dungu’) were erected and malathion dust (a non-persistent insecticide) was being used extensively for the first time. Materials which could not be obtained locally, such as paraffin tins (dehes ) for rat guards, malathion dust and nails were purchased by the village committee and sold through the co-operative shop.

When the time came for the project team to withdraw from the village, the committee realised that they had only begun to deal with preservation and storage of crops. They decided that they must continue to meet and work by keeping records of the effectiveness of the improvements adopted and help more people to make use of them.

The members of the committee were taken to Morogoro to take part in a seminar with fifty third-year undergraduates at the Faculty of Agriculture. The committee members found that they were able to answer all of the students’ questions because they had all been raised in some form in the discussions in the village. Suddenly the village committee realised that they knew more about the subject than those who had more formal education; by pooling their experience they had made themselves the experts.

The immediate results of the scheme were that the village saved some 12 tons of grain (valued at Sh.10,000/-) which it would otherwise have lost. More important was the understanding which the villagers achieved of their own systems and how they could be improved.

The project demonstrated once again the complexity of development problems – that there are no instant solutions, and the necessity for those involved in development to have a real understanding of the techniques of communication and a respect for the knowledge and experience of the people they wish to help.

John Arnold

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