For Malawi’s farmers facing harvest pests, the solution’s in the bag

    By Charles Mkoka

    LILONGWE, May 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The harvest months of May and June should be a period of relief for Malawi's farmers, as they finally reap their crops after battling a prolonged dry spell, attacks by armyworm pests and flooding in some areas.

    But many farmers, such as Clement Kasitomu of Dowa district, now face a new worry: Losing as much as 40 percent of their harvest to insects once the crops are in storage.

    Kasitomu usually stores his grain, vegetables and other harvested food in traditional woven granaries - designed to keep cattle and goats out - or in hessian sacks, or tucked among leaves. But his harvest is frequently attacked by weevils, termites and fungi, he said.

    That costs him cash, food and seeds he could plant the next season. "We have suffered losses, especially from hybrid (crops) that are not that strong to withstand pests," the farmer said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Pesticides aren't a solutMWmkoka leaf storage bagion either, he said, because they are both expensive and cause ecological problems on the farm. But a bit of cheap technology could help, in the form of manufactured storage bags, which more farmers in Malawi are beginning to use.

    The Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) bag is being promoted in seven districts in Malawi as an alternative to using chemical pesticides on stored grain or simply losing it to pests, said Shelix Munthali, an official with the Feed the Future agricultural diversification programme, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

    The bag has two linings of high-density polyethylene, and an outer layer of woven polypropylene. Together, the layers keep out most oxygen, which prevents insects from surviving and reproducing.

    Up to 98 percent of all insects can be eliminated from stored grain within a month of depositing it in the bag, cutting losses, according to a 2017 study published in the journal Plos One.

    Malawi's Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has endorsed the bags as a proven technology for cutting losses after harvest.

    "Before I started using PICS bags, I would lose four out of 10 bags (of grain) to weevils and the fungus aflatoxin," said Trecia Kangala, a farmer from Mchinji district.

    But "when after seven months I unsealed my first PICS bag, the maize quality was as good as it was the time I sealed the bag. Since chemicals are not used when using PICS bags, I also saved (money)," she added.

    Aido Chapuma Chakakala, a farmer from Lilongwe, said the bags also protected grain he needed to replant as seed.

    "This year I decided to plant maize from the PICS bag, (to see) if it could germinate. To my utter surprise, the germination rate was perfect," he said. "I can boast of a good harvest this year."

    Latest News

    PUMA Energy donates One Million Kwacha to AEJ

    Officials of Puma Energy are pledging continued support towards initiatives by the Association of Environmental Journalists-AEJ. Puma Energy has since donated One Million Kwacha towards the Annual ...

    National Assembly for Science and Environment Journalists in Malawi

    The Association of Environment Journalists in Malawi (AEJ) is pleased to announce the National Assembly for Science and Environment Journalists in Malawi from 11th through 13th April, 2019 where Minis...

    Malawi Government sleeps on illegal mining

    Illegal mining has enshrined in the country with people flocking from neighbouring countries like Mozambique and Zambia to buy the precious stones in areas that have been deemed to be ‘grey areas’ for...

    Disaster losses affecting Africa’s economic growth—report

    A United Nation Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (Unisdr) report has pegged the global disaster economic losses at $2.9 billion which is a 151 percent increase in 20 years between 1998 and 2018). T...

    Local – not just commercial – crop seeds key to food security, Malawi admits

    By Charles Mkoka LILONGWE, Sept 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Malawi's government has given in to mounting pressure to recognise the importance of locally grown and saved crop seeds, as well as c...

    Malawi aims to restore trees and land covering half the country by 2030

    LILONGWE, July 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Malawi plans to spend about $385 million by 2030 to plant trees and restore other degraded land, in an effort to reverse rampant forest losses in the co...

    For Malawi’s farmers facing harvest pests, the solution’s in the bag

    By Charles Mkoka LILONGWE, May 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The harvest months of May and June should be a period of relief for Malawi's farmers, as they finally reap their crops after battling ...

    Harnessing the enemy: as crops dry, Malawi turns to solar irrigation

    ZOMBA, Malawi, July 23 (Credit: Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As climate change brings longer droughts, farmers in eastern Malawi's already dry Lake Chilwa basin are seeing an ever-more-frequent disas...

    Read More: News

    © 2019 AEJ Malawi. All Rights Reserved. Content hereon cannot be reproduced without prior written permission.