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Jobs for Youth to Reverse Cereal Grain Postharvest Loss (PHL)

Just like hand washing stops ebola, grain moisture testing will stop PHL like aflatoxin and efficiently increase safe food availability.

Photo of William Lanier

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Moisture testing reverses PHL best when it is done early in the postharvest handling process – during harvesting, drying and aggregation when sampling is easy. Retesting moisture after grain is in sacks, stacked in storage, or stored in bulk, means additional costs to unload, sample, test and then reload. In the outside environment, moving air of low relative humidity, coupled with for example, the heating effects of sunshine will dry grain. This approach is very economical when used for standing crops in the field. When moisture testing governs the harvest of cereals dried standing, they can go directly into storage. However, most Sub-Saharan African (SSA) grains are harvested regardless of moisture content onto a drying platform. Even though drying cereals on a platform outside means additional handling, accurate sun drying is still economical when compared to burning fuel for heat. One approach to reverse PHL started in August 2013 when "Diana's Moisture testing and Solarization" (MT&S Image 3) began providing the Ashanti region of Ghana with calibrated moisture meter testing. Testing grains being harvested, drying on platforms, moving into and out of storage so growers control their business plan is Diana's job. Moisture testing extends beyond safe food. Diana will visit seed outlets, because purchasing seed with vital levels of moisture reduces poor germination later. Diana's MT&S began gathering grower contacts at local market and National Farmer days.

WHO BENEFITS?

- Growers producing consistent safe food catalyze expert groups - Reversing PHL is good for SSA Governments who want to multiply the benefits of inputs because otherwise, separating increased yields from "stunting in children" (Cardwell, 2015) is difficult - NGO's are interested in "reliable PHL figures essential for better targeting of loss reduction programes, monitoring the success of these programes and estimating food availability in countries threatened by food insecurity" (APHLIS, 2015

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU

William Lanier was a VSO with Northern Ghana's "Ministry of Food and Agriculture" (MoFA) and an "Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa" Seed grower applied a Masters in Agricultural Education and Technology and career in Integrated Pest Management. https://gh.linkedin.com/in/williamthomaslanier

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

  • Kenya
  • Rwanda
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Not yet.

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

Moisture testing reverses PHL best when it is done early in the harvest and postharvest handling process – during harvesting, drying and aggregation when representative sampling is easy. Retesting moisture after grain is in sacks, stacked in storage, or Development testifies about increasing grain yields, but youth continue to migrate away from grain growing towards cities. However, by reversing grain "Postharvest and related input loss" (PHL) youth could multiply the benefits of micro-finance, mechanization, seed, fertilizer, pest management and grow profitably.

Youth will be interested to know that some PHL is of wet, densely nutritious (fruits and vegetables) and some is dry, high calorie grains. Dry, high calorie grains feed most of the human labor and animal power needed to grow and harvest and market food like fruits, vegetables and livestock.

"Encouragingly, though, tackling [dry grain] post-harvest loss is not rocket science. It does not require technological breakthroughs or years of high level scientific research as do some of the other challenges we face" (Cousins, 2014).

Entrepreneurial youth who reverse grain PHL during harvesting and drying have: a rural job producing food for growers; then business plans that defragment aggregation, storage, processing and marketing services; regional expertise to "share the risk among other actors and allow borrowers to benefit from higher lending on better terms" (Albert, 2016); and finally the acumen needed to develop policies that manage ecosystem services which bear the cost of production, optimally.

Around the world, testing moisture content provides a robust way to assess PHL and the suitability of grains for safe storing. An Australian farmer recently commented: "Moisture levels are what determine when we harvest! They have a major bearing on the sell price of the grain. Accurate calibrated moisture measurements are made on a regular, almost hourly routine with the results governing the harvest and storage decisions for that moment" (Parker, 2015). Moisture content is related to insect infestations and aflatoxin producing fungi.

Entrepreneurs who are familiar with mobile phones will be interested to learn about hand held moisture meters. Moisture meters have apps that determine the moisture content for many cereal, oilseed and pulse (grain) crops and resemble a "cup with screw lid" (Image 1) or probe "PHL meter" (McNeill, 2015). Meters can help growers determine when to harvest, forecast pests, store and market optimally.

It is important to test moisture content with an accurate meter. Accurate meters have a certificate. A Ghana Standards Authority certificate states that the meter consistently met or exceeded standards for recognizing moisture content and then indicates what calibration settings match Scientific Oven tests. Although pioneering development (FAO, 2015) groups list them, Bite and Salt moisture tests are not certifiable. Neither of these tests requires expensive equipment but neither is certified because they are very subjective and error prone.

Table 1. Comparing the Practicality of Moisture Meters in Sub-Saharan Africa


Primitive

Protocol prone

Certified accurate

App Quick

Sack

Bulk

Bare hand

Yes

Very

No

Yes

No

No

Bite

Yes

Very

No

Yes

No

No

Salt

Yes

Yes

No

Tedious

No

No

PHL meter

No

No

Yes

Medium

Yes

No

Screw top

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

Open top

No

Yes

Not in Ghana

Yes

No

No

2 Prong

No

Yes

Not in Ghana

Yes

Yes

No


Moisture testing reverses PHL best when it is done early in the harvest and postharvest handling process – during harvesting, drying and aggregation when representative sampling is easy. Retesting moisture after grain is in sacks, stacked in storage, or stored in bulk, means additional costs to unload, sample, test and then reload.

In the outside environment, moving air of low relative humidity, coupled with for example, the heating effects of sunshine will dry grain. This approach is very economical when used for standing crops in the field.

When moisture testing governs the harvest of cereals dried standing, they spend less time close to the ground where the risk of PHL like aflatoxin increases. Less risk allows harvest to be more efficient and grain goes directly into storage.

However, most Sub-Saharan African (SSA) grains are harvested regardless of moisture content onto a drying platform. Even though drying cereals on a platform outside means additional handling, if platform drying is accurate, using the sun and moving air is still economical when compared to burning fuel for heat.

Too store grains, airtight storage needs a roof and raised platform to mitigate loss associated with the condensation that is caused by day and night temperatures, fungi, insects and rats. Breathable storage addresses those problems practically so grains are safe food or animal feed and surplus attracts optimal prices.

How serious is the reversing PHL business opportunity?

- Dr Cardwell (2014) presents "Farmers whose scale of operation is too small to be able to produce SAFE FOOD, are too small to farm maize (or any aflatoxin sensitive staples)."

- Reversing PHL is good for SSA Governments who want to multiply the benefits of subsidized inputs because otherwise, separating increased yields from "stunting in children" (Cardwell, 2015) is difficult.

- Lenders want to reduce the risk of PHL so SSA borrowers benefit from better terms and "empirical studies show that commodity [safe food] trading  presents enormous benefits to economies" (Narh - Bank of Ghana, 2015).

- NGO's are interested in "reliable PHL figures essential for better targeting of loss reduction programmes, monitoring the success of these programmes and estimating food availability in countries threatened by food insecurity" (APHLIS, 2015).

- Just like hand washing will prevent ebola, moisture testing will reverse PHL and efficiently "increase food availability without further use of land, water and other agricultural inputs" (APHLIS, 2015).

Tremendous benefits wait for youth who decide to: dry grain accurately; store grain for a sell date by trading moisture for time (See image 2 Safe storage chart); and advertise their expertise using sms based "ear to the market, applications and field services" (Esoko, 2015).

Moisture testing with calibrated meters promotes individual business opportunities with agricultural earnings potential. One individual approach to reverse PHL started in August 2013 when "Diana's Moisture testing and Solarization" (MT&S Image 3) began providing the Ashanti region of Ghana with calibrated moisture meter testing. Testing grains being harvested, drying on platforms, moving into and out of storage so growers control their business plan is Diana's job. Moisture testing extends beyond safe food. Diana will visit seed outlets, because purchasing seed with vital levels of moisture reduces poor germination later. Diana's MT&S began gathering grower contacts at local market and National Farmer day celebrations.

Around the world, moisture testing supports critical thinking skills and expertise to help farmers develop a reputation for consistent product delivery. Consistent quality promotes group-based activities when traders see earning potential as consumers purchase their products first. This catalyzes formation of a community of likeminded farmer and service providers along the value chain that decouple local nutritional choices from price, while addressing market access for surplus grain.

Youth that reverse PHL can help farmers hold chiefs, opportunistic traders, NGO cultural advisers, Industry and ultimately SSA governments accountable so:

 “natural resources benefit the people in the countries that possess them in an inclusive manner, and create value addition that sustainably manages natural resources including ensuring protection of ecosystems and minimizing environmental  degradation” (Africa’s Adaptation Gap, 2015).

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Team (4)

William's profile
Dennis's profile
Dennis Onyango

Role added on team:

"Hello Dennis, Would your kilimo.labs consider training rural youth to use moisture meters? William"

Fibiya's profile
Fibiya Japhet

Role added on team:

"Hello Fibiya, Would training rural youth to use moisture meters raise East-Afriacn agricultural production and increase food security? William"

Hetti's profile
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Attachments (3)

Aflatoxin Flyer 2015.pdf

A substantial body of knowledge is available on PHL like aflatoxin challenge that plagues African farmers, other agrientrepreneurs and governments, but it is not being put into practice. Judith Francis, CTA's Senior Programme Coordinator.

GSA MMeter Flyer Final.pdf

Brief explanation of the handheld moisture meter calibration process that is like setting (calibrating) watches to the correct time. Currently in SSA Africa observations suggest both political and scientific calibration is applied. Imagine only the time indicated on the Politician's watch is correct and the technocrats supporting that politician can adjust the time with no explanation. Scientific calibration democratizes patriarchal decisions that may weaken food supply chains and nutrition.

Jobs for Youth to Reverse Cereal Grain Postharvest Loss AAKNet.pdf

Youth that reverse PHL can help farmers hold chiefs, opportunistic traders, NGO cultural advisers, Industry and ultimately SSA governments accountable so: “natural resources benefit the people in the countries that possess them in an inclusive manner, and create value addition that sustainably manages natural resources including ensuring protection of ecosystems and minimizing environmental degradation” (Africa’s Adaptation Gap, 2015).

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Photo of Fibiya Japhet
Team

Great contribution William. That's the way to go, and I agree with your your ideas. If people are given the opportunity and educated on how to make efficient use of what they have to live a better life, it will go a long way in improving growth and likelihood of development and even job creation. Good job.
Fibiya Japhet

Photo of William Lanier
Team

Glad you agree,
Shall we form an OpenIDEO team (already added you to mine), exchange email addresses and create a user experience map that meet the requirements for both our projects?
William

Photo of William Lanier
Team

Hello Fibiya Japhet,
William (NeverIdle) hopes you are doing well and wish to invite you to the "1st All African Postharvest Congress and Exhibition (March 28 - 31) Nairobi"
<http://africa-postharvestconference.uonbi.ac.ke/>. We hope to meet and discuss more about Moisture meters and testing to Reverse Grain Postharvest Loss."
Regards,
William

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