Mozambique: A bag of food and hope – Mozambique
How a simple airtight item reduces food loss and protects the livelihoods of small farming communities in Mozambique
October 4, 2021, Denise Colletta, Diocleciano Gento, Clara Penicela
Up to 70 percent of Mozambicans live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their survival. According to the World Bank, for every 10 kg of food that grows in Mozambique’s fields, at least 3 kg is lost due to improper processing, transportation and storage.
This can be catastrophic for small farmers, their families and the communities that depend on them, as they risk becoming food insecure.
In the central province of Tete, 50 percent of post-harvest production is lost, according to a recent survey by the World Food Program (WFP). More than 30 percent of losses occur weeks after harvest due to mishandling of crops and inefficient home storage, leading to an increased risk of post-harvest contamination and food poisoning.
This hinders WFP’s efforts to enable a comprehensive ‘farm-to-fork’ food system, supporting production, storage, market access and consumption of food, coupled with education on food preparation. more nutritious foods.
To address this, WFP implemented the Zero Post-Harvest Loss project in six districts of Tete province, promoting the use of airtight bags and fostering market integration by connecting farmers, agro-dealers. industries and schools for the supply of local foods.
The first time farmer Francisco Tongadza reopened his airtight sorghum sacks, which had been stored six months earlier, he couldn’t believe his eyes. “The beans were like new,” he says. Francisco takes care of a family of 18, including 16 children and adolescents. He relies on his sorghum production to feed his family and sells the surplus on the local market. With the income, he is able to purchase a wider variety of foods and other household items for his family.
Over the years, Francisco has lost half of the sorghum he cultivates due to poor storage.
Since last year, however, he has participated in WFP training on post-harvest losses. With technology as simple as a vacuum bag, Francisco can store his sorghum for months and sell it for less on the market.
“Last year I kept four 20 kg airtight bags filled with sorghum. I sold them six months later at a much higher price than when I harvested them, ”he says. He received three airtight bags from WFP during the training, then invested in other bags, made available by the organization at an affordable price.
These bags allow Francisco to envision growth. This season, he keeps 70 airtight sorghum bags weighing 50 kg each, which he plans to resell when the price is higher. “This year I will enjoy even more. With this money, I will finish the roof of my house and enroll my 16 children in school ”. His productivity in the fields is the same, but what has changed is that half of his sorghum is no longer wasted.
Lucrecia Tomas grows corn, peanuts, soybeans and beans on her 3 hectare plot. Previously, her production was intended for immediate consumption by her eight family members, and for immediate sale in the local market, regardless of the prices she would get.
By joining the postharvest loss project, Lucrecia learned to use the airtight bags to store her produce, so that they can be eaten and sold later at a better price than during the harvest season. She also bought additional bags. “It was a profitable investment. It appears that the corn was only stored for a week, not six months.
Lucrecia breathes a sigh of relief with the new storage option, literally. With the airtight bags, she no longer needs to use chemicals to preserve her grains. “I used to cough a lot and had trouble breathing with the chemicals,” she says. “We also had to soak the grains in water to be able to cook. Now it’s healthier ”.
Lucrecia and the others in her farmers’ association learned how to measure the moisture in their grains using another simple object: a glass bottle. Along with the food that lasts longer, farmers are also learning cooking techniques to have nutritious dishes on their tables throughout the year.
The project succeeded in reducing the losses of participating farmers in Tete from 50 percent to less than 9 percent.
The Zero Post-Harvest Loss project, supported by WFP partner Cartier Philanthropy, trained 20,000 farmers and 65 government agricultural experts, and provided 8,000 children with locally grown school meals.
In 2021, WFP is preparing to implement the second phase of the project, in order to reach more farmers and establish a sustainable system to ensure the availability of airtight bags throughout the country through the engagement of public and private sectors.