By Twinomuhwezi Enock
Left: Farmers of Rwenkuba using a maize shelling machine to reduce breakage of kernels ; Middle: Farmers of Kakinga pouring their maize on tarpaulins after threshing to minimise; Right: KRC staff demonstrating to Rwenkuba farmers on how to use a bottle and salt to test Moisture Content
Post Harvest handling is one of the main initiatives KRC is giving emphasis to help farmers minimise post harvest handling –and ostensibly increase their income levels. Post harvest goes though a number of stages, these include, harvesting, transportation, drying, threshing/sorting, cleaning, storage, processing, packaging and marketing. Maize post harvest handling is an important segment in the maize value chain where farmers need to be critical in order to produce good quality maize. Post harvest is another stage where harvest losses are more if not handled technically right. During post harvest losses are more from harvesting up to storage if not handled with care.
Quality and quantitative losses occur on many stages post harvest of maize. During harvesting if unready maize is harvested that causes shrinkage hence reducing weight and quality of maize kernels, spillages during transportation within the garden and from gardens to households for drying, drying maize on ground greatly reduces the quality of maize through contamination with soil & other foreign matter and encroach of animals on drying maize are among the causes of maize post harvest losses.
During threshing, maize losses occur as a result of using sticks to beat maize that causes leads to broken kernels that reduces maize grade/ quality. After drying, poor storage is another stage where maize quality and quantity losses are common if not stored properly, this comes as a result of storing maize of moisture content above 13% that cause development fungi (mould) that is cancerous hence rendering maize unfit for human consumption, use of poor storage equipments like sisal bags that allow in oxygen hence providing favourable conditions maize weevil pests that bore into stored maize and depositing exudates that all reduce quality but also storing on bare ground and leaning storage equipments against walls that allow exchange of moisture between stored maize and walls or ground.
KRC conducts practical trainings in maize post harvest handling. This is intended to reduce post harvest losses and improve quality to meet the Grain Council Maize standards. This also attracts better prices for maize that enhances incomes for maize farmers.
The trainings focus on different stages of maize post harvest where losses occur so as this can be minimal. Farmers of Rwenkuba in Kasenda Sub County, Rugaga and Kakinga in Rwimi sub county Bunyangabu district and Kitswamba Sub county kasese district have been given practical skills on how to minimise losses at every step of maize post harvest from harvesting to storage.
Maize farmers have been encouraged to prepare enough tools and equipments like sacks, basins and other containers and tarpaulins where the maize is to be dried. Only dry maize from the field that have drooped is collected. It is then put on tarpaulins to avoid spillages and contamination with foreign matter and soil when dried on ground. Farmers should always use hands or threshing machines to avoid damages of broken kernels during threshing. After threshing maize should always be dried on tarpaulins not on bare ground
Before storage, farmers have been trained to use a bottle and salt that are locally available to test for appropriate moisture content for maize to be stored. Arrange a dry glass bottle with a cap, dry salt, a dry teaspoon, a dry plate, and grain. Then fill 1/3 of the bottle with grain, Add two teaspoons of salt to the grain and close the bottle tightly, Shake for one minute and allow it to settle for 15 minutes. If after 15 minutes salt sticks on the inside of the bottle then the grain moisture content is above 13% and is not ready for storage. But if the salt does not stick to inside of the bottle then the moisture content is below 13% and that would mean the grain is ready for storage.
Farmers have been encouraged to us pics bags which are airtight to store maize after drying maize to the correct moisture content. Can store 80-100kgs, Multi layer (3 layers) polyethene that restricts oxygen and water vapour movement, Pics bags are placed inside an outer bag to protect damage a
nd these bags are re usable