Improving Food Security in Kenya through Better Post-Harvest Management
(By Samson Odongo)
Alumnus Francis Musavi, Plant Protection Officer (front left), with a representative from the Ministry of Agriculture and Australian High Commissioner, HE Mr Geoff Tooth (front right), at a post-harvest management public diplomacy event held in Kenya in 2013.
Post-harvest management has been a major challenge in Kenya’s agricultural sector with an estimated loss of 20%-30% of harvested crops. Aiming to contribute to addressing this challenge, Francis Musavi successfully sought and completed an Australia Awards Africa Fellowship on Agriculture Post-Harvest Management of maize, rice and legumes in 2012.
Being a Plant Protection Officer under the Ministry of Agriculture, Francis spent the duration of his course effectively learning new knowledge and skills, as well as establishing networks with other participants. “The Fellowships program has provided me with knowledge on how to identify grain storage pests, product pest management techniques, community engagement methods and public speaking skills for effective communication,” he explains.
Francis’ key contributions have included participation in agricultural shows and farmers’ field days where he demonstrates simple and appropriate technologies that small-scale farmers can utilise to reduce post-harvest losses. Such technologies include the use of a moisture meter for determining grain moisture content before storage, simple and medium maize hand shellers and other appropriate grain storage materials. Farmers, input dealers, researchers, public health officers and field agriculture extension officers have all benefited from these presentations.
By taking a leading role in training other officers at the Ministry on identification of common storage pests and their control, factors affecting grains and fungal contamination, management of grain stores and skills to reduce post-harvest losses, he has prepared over 280 Agricultural Field Extension Officers to serve as Trainer of Trainers (TOT) who in turn train farmers and fellow colleagues down the chain. “A key focus of my training has been the development of knowledge and skills around post-harvest management and loss prevention so that lessons learned are effectively transferred to the workplace and disseminated amongst colleagues,” says Francis.
“Through these officers, we have seen a significant gain on agricultural productivity and food security through the use of proper storage methods. This is as result of farmers adopting new ways of managing post-harvest handling of grains hence ensuring food security and increased incomes,” he adds.
Thanks to the established networks with fellow alumni, consultation with other African nations on various issues affecting post-harvest is taking place. Simulating these links on a local scale, Francis has further established four networks with government institutions and non-governmental organisations in post-harvest management, thus allowing farmers to share their successes and learnings among themselves.
In recognition to his contribution to food security in Kenya, Francis has been nominated several times by his Ministry to represent the Department of Plant Protection, where he works in key technical meetings, committees and trainings. Not only does he represent the Ministry but he has also designed posters and brochures on post-harvest management, which he shares at those meetings.