Increasing farmers’ access to simple technologies for storage, treatment and processing can substantially improve grain quality and contribute to reducing post-harvest losses. In Burkina Faso, P4P-supported farmers’ organizations participated in a WFP action research trial, providing specialized training and access to storage equipment.
Today, P4P is building on the success of the trial in collaboration with a variety of partners, including local entrepreneurs, to provide smallholders with equipment for the post-harvest treatment of crops. Tools such as threshers and blowers can decrease the time and effort farmers spend treating their harvests, as well as improving crop quality and reducing post-harvest losses.
Promoting local innovation
Abdou Sanou is a farmer and an entrepreneur. Working from Bobo-Dioulasso, a hub for agricultural production in Burkina Faso, he has developed a number of agricultural tools which are now benefitting P4P-supported farmers’ organizations. “I’m interested in finding solutions to things that make small farmers suffer,” he says.
In 2012, Abdou was approached by Fédération des Professionnels Agricoles du Burkina (Federation of Agricultural Professionals of Burkina Faso, FEPAB), a national umbrella farmers’ organization that participated in the P4P pilot. FEPAB asked Abdou to design a new type of thresher for the diverse crops grown by smallholders in Burkina Faso—notably maize, sorghum, millet and cowpeas. Most farmers grow at least two of these crops to feed their families and sell to local markets. Because other threshers work only with one crop – due to differences in grain or seed size and plant type – these farmers would need multiple machines.
Abdou immediately accepted the challenge. “I couldn’t sleep for days,” he recalls. “I kept a notebook next to my bed to sketch ideas as they came to me.” His dedication, and lack of sleep, paid off. The tool he developed has several easily-exchangeable sorters for use with differently sized grain, and a textured cover that can release even small grains of millet from their shells. This allows farmers to efficiently thresh maize, sorghum, millet and cowpeas without damaging the grain. This also simplifies the time-consuming and labour-intensive task of removing grains from shells or husks.
The thresher under construction in Abdou's workshop. Copyright: WFP/Ismael Nignan
Access to quality markets
Local manufacturers have the ability to create equipment which responds directly to farmers’ needs and make adjustments as necessary. Abdou was able to constantly improve his creation by communicating with farmers, particularly through consultation with the national P4P Stakeholder Consultation Group co-led by the Government and WFP. His latest model has wheels in response to farmers’ comments that the equipment was difficult to transport from one site to another.
With the farmers’ stamp of approval, P4P and partners have begun purchasing equipment from Abdou and other artisans. In early 2015, P4P provided post-harvest handling equipment to six farmers’ organizations, including four locally-manufactured blowers and mechanized threshers. The farmers’ organizations are responsible for the maintenance of the equipment, with individual farmers paying a small fee for its use. Each organization participated in training on the equipment’s use and upkeep organized by a team of local manufacturers and P4P staff. The engagement of artisans in these trainings allowed farmers to voice concerns with the tools and fix minor problems right away.
Farmers have quickly put the equipment to use, benefiting from the reduced time required to treat the grain. Union des Groupements de Producteurs des Céréales à Nyala (Union of Cereal Producing Groups from Nyala, UGPCER), has already processed 600 bags – 60 metric tons (mt) – of grain with Abdou’s universal thresher. When a replacement part was needed, farmers knew who to call—and Abdou had them up and running in no time. This resolved difficulties which can arise with imported equipment, for which it can be difficult to find replacement parts locally.
P4P also provided farmers’ organizations with management tools to record the amount of grain processed. This allows them to demonstrate the financial benefits of using the equipment as opposed to traditional techniques and encourages organizations to consider purchasing similar equipment on their own. Abdou is currently working to obtain a patent for his universal thresher, a tool unlike any other on the market. He also hopes to open a training center for youth.
P4P in Burkina Faso will continue to support innovation to reduce post-harvest losses. A joint effort to reduce post-harvest losses was recently launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and WFP to scale up best practices for reducing food losses.
Story by Eliza Warren-Shriner