By Wisdom Mumera
A University of Zimbabwe (UZ) research into crop preservation methods has released results questioning the effectiveness of most commercial chemicals as the country seeks to safeguard its food security.
The exercise led by Professor Brighton Mvumi from the Department of Soil Science at UZ revealed that most of the commercial medicines and preservation chemicals are not as effective as they are sold to be leading to extensive losses of crops after harvest.
Actelic Gold Dust, Chirundamatura and Phosphine tablets were all proved to be less than effective with the latter even dangerous to the health of those using them.
They have since advised for the use of hermetic bags, which are sacks with plastics specially treated to deter pests.
Crop preservation specialist James Mwangi from Kenya said the specialised bags were very effective and safe.
“The sacks are able to stifle the entrance of oxygen and moisture. When putting the maize the moisture content should be below 13%. So what you store is what you get after one year because there is no exchange of air or moisture”.
“It’s a technology that has been taken from how a mosquito net works and the medicine used to prepare this sack isn’t dangerous to human beings”, he said.
Dr Johnson Odera another agricultural expert based in Tanzania concurred adding that they would introduce the specialised bags into the country on a wider scale.
“We shall set up a local base but we need to find a local distributor who can then sell the hermetic bags to the local farmers”, he said.
Africa loses an average of $4 billion worth of food every year a portion that could be preserved and do away with food donations from foreign countries according to Professor Mvumi.
The country has been facing food shortages due to a number of factors that include erratic rainfall, lack of inputs by farmers and financial challenges for commercial farmers.
Command Agriculture a government initiative to increase food production through availing inputs for farmers has failed to change much with many experts calling for its dismantling.
The lack of success in the farming sector has added more woes for a country already suffering a crippling economic crisis that has left millions unemployed and industries closed.