THE FOOD STORAGE CRISIS

THE PROBLEM
GOVERNMENT AND DONOR ACTION
WINNING THE BATTLE AGAINST AN ADDITIONAL THREAT
ACTION IN THE VILLAGES
BRINGING NEW TECHNOLOGY TO BEAR

Tanzania is facing a crisis as a result of the bumper crops harvested during the last two years and the inadequacy of storage capacity. The Government has indicated the importance it attaches to a resolution of the problem by putting the Office of the Prime Minister in charge of coordinating the campaign to improve storage facilities. A National Coordinating Committee has been set up and there were two well attended donor meetings in September and November 1987.

The Problem
In every decade there are approximately five years of good harvests and five years of drought. There was adverse weather, for example, from 1980 to 1984/85 but from 1985/86 Tanzania enjoyed two good seasons. Similarly, in the 70’s, the early years were dry; in the later years Tanzania had good rains.

As a result of the good rains in 1985/86, primary cooperative societies had to handle over 500,000 tons of various cash and food crops. In 1986/87 the quantity rose by 28% to over 640,000 tons. The 1987/88 season seems likely to produce crops totalling 760,000 tons. Needless to say, therefore, Tanzania’s existing storage capacity cannot cope and large quantities of crops have had to be left with the farmer to store.

Existing storage capacity at primary society level is estimated to be just less than 500,000 tons. There is a shortfall therefore of some 260,000 tons.

Government and Donor Action
At the household level: A US$ 3.2 million project has been negotiated with the UNDP to undertake research on improved household stores in ten regions.

At the Primary Society level: Government, EEC, West German and FAO assistance is being used to construct 75 godowns, each with a capacity of 300 tons in villages all over the country. This will only partially resolve the problem however as there are only 3,689 godowns available at present and an estimated need for 5,267. The 75 new godowns should provide 22,500 tons of additional storage capacity and it is intended that this will be a continuing programme. The EEC is also assisting in the provision of concrete slabs with tarpaulins at some 83 sites.

At the Cooperative Unions; these 24 Unions have, at present, capacity to store 138,000 tons compared with a need for 270,000 tons; the Unions plan, if they can raise the funds, to build 48 godowns with a capacity of 41,000 tons in the first year of their development programme.

At the National Level: Existing National Milling Corporation godowns are in need of rehabilitation. A World Bank project is underway but will not have adequate funds to support construction of the new silos needed in Tabora, Songea, Makambako, Mbeya, Sumbawanga and Dar es Salaam.

(Extracts from a Speech by Mr. Charles Kileo, Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office).

Winning the Battle Against an Additional Threat “We are winning the battle” declared Dr. Peter Golob, the Director of the campaign against the Larger Grain Borer Beetle in Western Tanzania run by the Overseas Development Natural Resources Institute (ONDRI) under an FAO project.

The beetle, which is believed to have been introduced from Central America in a load of grain for refugees, is spreading into neighbouring Kenya, It has been decimating stored food crops, mainly maize and cassava since about 1977.

The Swahili name for the beetle is ‘Dumuzi’ but the Tanzanians, with their cockney-style humour, call it the ‘Scania beetle’ because of its facial resemblance to the front of a Scania lorry!

Dr. Golob told ‘Friends of Urambo and Mwanhala’, the Devonshire based aid group, at Tavistock, Devon, that the campaign against the beetle had at last ‘taken off’ and that although the pest could never be completely eliminated from Africa, its ravages were now being reduced to a manageable level.

He said they were hampered by the poor communications, both transport wise and educationally, by farmers’ reluctance to abandon traditional storage methods, by the tremendous distances and by the increased cost of pesticides caused by the devaluation of the currency forced on Tanzania by the IMF, The insecticide is now being produced in the country.

Dr. Golob praised the work of two VSO volunteers. Their number had now been increased to nine.

Among those present at the meeting was Mr. Malcolm Flory of the Bicton College of Agriculture in Devon which is currently negotiating with the Tanzanian Government about the setting up of a link between the college and villages in the Tabora area.
John Budge

Action in the Villages
It is now four years since Tanzanian extension workers, together with British and American volunteers, began tackling the problem of ‘Dumuzi’ at village level. The recommended method of control has remained consistent throughout this period whilst the extension techniques have been developed enormously. The result is that more and more families are now receiving the basic information they need to control ‘Dumuzi’ in a more appropriate and understandable form.

When the insecticide dust first became available in Tanzania in 1984 it was obviously an unknown commodity and the extension worker’s first task was to advise on its safe and effective use. A wide range of issues were raised at village meetings. “Was it really necessary to shell one’s maize?”; “Yes, the insecticide cannot kill insects already inside the cob if it is only sprinkled on the outside”. “How much insecticide do I use?” Initially, the chemical was in large sacks and dosages were recommended in terms of matchboxes full of insecticide. However, several tons of insecticide were repacked in Tabora into packets suitable for protecting six ‘debbes’ of maize, the equivalent of one large sack. This proved to be much more reliable. Currently, insecticide is imported in accurately weighed sachets with printed instructions in Swahili.

During the campaign much emphasis was placed on the need for building traditional woven stores which could be protected to some degree against rats and rain. It was usually possible to find an ‘Mgogo’ expert to demonstrate his skill in basket weaving to a predominently ‘Sukuma’ or ‘Nyamwezi’ village, or for the smaller baskets traditionally used for low volume crops to be adapted for storing shelled maize. In practice, it was not until some of the ‘entrepreneurs’ in a given Village had successfully stored maize for eight to ten months that any of the new ideas began to appeal to the majority of families.

One volunteer has experimented with drama as a medium of spreading the recommendations and in helping to allay the fears of villagers regarding the use of insecticides. This has proved to be most successful and, because of local participation in the acting groups, these events have drawn wider audiences than would be expected at village meetings.

For the hard pressed extension worker, who may be responsible for several villages and also for coordinating all the inputs for cash crop production, there can never be enough hours in the day to patiently explain the changes in storage practice which the ‘Dumuzi’ beetle has made inevitable in Tanzania. Caroline Hanks

Bringing New Technology to Bear
Prompted by the damage caused by the Larger Grain Borer and other storage pests, in early 1977 a British company, Rural Investment Overseas (RIO), set out to find a way to encourage timely and effective insecticide dusting of maize.

A large proportion of the country’s maize crop has to remain in store for several months in village stores holding 2-500 tons and operated by primary cooperative societies. Without insecticide treatment anything up to 30% of this maize is destroyed by insects

The normal treatment for insect damage is fumigation but this can only be done effectively under closely supervised conditions, in central stores.

In a project funded by the ONDRI, two manually operated machines were designed at Silsoe College and tested at the Tanzanian Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation and Rural Technology (CAMARTEC) near Arusha. One is a pedal operated combined sheller/duster and the other is a bagged maize duster called the ‘Swinger’.

Field testing of prototypes in Songea district have been positive.

The ‘Swinger’ consists’ of a cage into which an open bag is strapped with the dose of insecticide dust sprinkled on top. The cage pivots on an A frame and has a drum above it into which the maize empties when the cage/drum assembly is swung vertically through 180 degrees. There is a mixing cone inside the drum, and it is necessary to swing each bag through two complete revolutions to effect adequate mixing. A team of four operators can comfortably mix 100 bags a day. This ties in well with the sequence of delivery of grain by the farmer – weighing, dusting and putting the bag into the store. The alternative dusting method is much more labour intensive and time consuming as it involves emptying the grain onto the ground and hand mixing the insecticide before refilling the bag.

It is intended that the ‘Swinger’ should be manufactured in Tanzania.

Robert Whitcombe

1 Comment »

  1. Tanzanian Affairs » 36 YEARS OF TANZANIAN AFFAIRS – PART 1 said,

    September 3, 2011 at 10:55 am

    […] by John Budge, Caroline Hanks and Robert Whitcombe look at the problems caused by the Larger Grain Borer Beetle which has been decimating stored food crops mainly maize and cassava. Packaging insecticide in […]

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