Trans Nzoia County has issued 3,500 hermetic storage bags to vulnerable farmers in its latest bid to contain post-harvest losses and reduce grain storage losses due to insect pests.
Post-harvest losses in the county are estimated at 30-40 percent annually due to the widespread damage caused by insects, rodents, mould and extreme climate changes.
Hermetic bags are air-tight and prevent air and water from getting into the cereals stored in them.
The county government is targeting 500 to 700 vulnerable farmers - those living with HIV/Aids, the elderly, widows and widowers - in 25 wards, said Agriculture Chief Officer Robert Musikoyo. They will receive 100 percent subsidised hermetic bags.
"A majority of these small-scale farmers use traditional methods to handle and store their grain after harvest (and it is) often difficult to attain the targeted grain moisture when weather conditions are not favourable," said Mr Musikoyo when he met ward officers who will distribute the bags.
He noted that insects are the main cause of dry matter loss, saying improper grain drying often results in damage by storage fungi and the risk of mycotoxin accumulation.
Some of the farmers who spoke to the Nation expressed their willingness to use hermetic bags for their next harvest.
Initiative is timely
"I have been using traditional methods to store maize and they are not effective as I find insects on the maize. These hermetic bags will help keep the maize safe," said Wyclef Situma, a farmer from Kiminini sub-county.
"We live in an agricultural county and I believe we can only prosper if we embrace new technologies and proper use of land," said Angela Limo, a farmer from Kwanza sub-county.
For Annette Nasimiyu, the initiative is timely as she could not afford to purchase the 20 bags she needs to store her crops.
"A bag costs Sh250 and I need 20 and that comes to Sh5,000. This is too expensive for me but thanks to this county initiative these bags are free," she said.
Trans Nzoia County is a major maize producer and contributes about 40 percent to the country's annual requirement of 41 million bags.
The county produces about five million bags annually from over 100,000 hectares of land normally put under maize production.
But Mr Musikoyo noted that last year, due to poor rain patterns and other underlying factors, the harvest dropped by 1.2 million bags.
"Last year we expected to have 5.6 million bags of maize but due to bad weather conditions we managed to have 4.8 million bags," he explained.
He advised farmers on the current weather patterns.
"This is January, and we already see some semblance of rains but we are telling farmers to hold on,” he said.
“They should not rush to their farms. They can only continue with land preparation. If they go ahead and plant, … the dry spell will come towards early February and March (and destroy the crops)," he said.