After Cyclone Idai: Building resilience to future shocks

Hermetic bags are reducing losses and helping farmers become more resilient to shocks

24 September 2020, Zimbabwe – In 2019, flash floods and landslides caused by Cyclone Idai tore through Zimbabwe’s Manicaland and Masvingo provinces wiping out crops already hit by the El Nino-induced drought. The cyclone also caused a significant loss of lives, livestock and infrastructure.

With funding from the World Bank, the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP), in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Vision and Leveraging Economic Advancement of the Disadvantaged (LEAD), is helping farmers in affected areas to rebuild their livelihoods and strengthen resilience to future shocks

One aspect of this is improving post-harvest management: hermetic bags are air-tight and protect and preserve the quality of dried grains and pulses. They significantly reduce post-harvest losses to almost zero when appropriately used. Moreover, they negate the use of harmful pesticides. The stored grain can last up to two years and the bag is reusable. Improved storage allows farmers to reap the benefits of improved prices by delaying sales until market prices improve.

Constance Pepukai, the ZIRP Project Coordinator, noted: “A total of 25 600 hermetic bags have been distributed to 6 400 farming households across four affected districts: Chimanimani, Chipinge, Buhera, and Mutare. FAO and partners trained the farmers on post-harvest management and each received four hermetic bags. These hermetic bags are effective in preventing post-harvest grain loss and harmful aflatoxin contamination – as long as the grain is adequately dried before it is stored.”

Planning ahead

Elina Sigauke, 61, from Muzila village in Ward 19, Chipinge district, said the bags had saved her money as she didn’t need to spend on pesticides.

Ms. Siguake, like many farmers in the ZIRP districts, had a modest harvest, which was three times more than her usual yield. Most farmers previously produced 0.3 tonnes of maize per hectare. However, this year they grew close to 1.25 tonnes per hectare.

While a surplus can be good news, most farmers are having problems preserving and storing their grain. This is where the hermetic bags come in; Ms. Siguake said that grain stored in the new hermetic bags was clean, free from infestation, weevils and other live insects.

“We have reduced our post-harvest losses by about 35 percent, at the same time saving a lot of money which we will invest in other things,” said Ms. Siguake.

She added that the one tonne of maize she harvested, through new farming and preservation practices, would fetch her reasonable prices at the Grain Marketing Board (GMB). She would be willing to sell a surplus of about half a tonne well beyond harvest, contributing to the national grain reserves. “The other half tonne will be for family consumption, which will last me the whole year,” she added.

Another beneficiary of the ZIRP project, Farrie Mlambo, said that good farming practices and better post-harvest management of her grain helped her have an unprecedented surplus grain of 100 kg.

Ms. Mlambo indicated that ZIRP’s assistance had helped her recover from the impact of cyclone Idai, which washed away most of her crops before they were ready for harvesting.

The World Bank approved an exceptional allocation of USD 72 million to the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP), which aims to “address the early and medium-term resilient disaster recovery needs of cyclone-affected people.

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