Story ideas on crop storage and climate change

Climate changeEnvironment and climate changePost-harvest activities


1st story : Plants which protect stored crops

Story: Two women (or men) are worried that, because pests have damaged their stored grains in the past, they will not be able to feed their families during the coming hungry season. They cannot afford storage chemicals. They talk to an elder who advises them to experiment with using a few local plants. The women (men) discover that one of the plants repels the most damaging storage pest. As a result, they have enough food to last through the hungry season.

Messages: Locally available plants can help protect stored crops and ensure food security.

Further suggestions: Interview local farmers and herbalists about locally available materials which can protect stored crops. Broadcast the “recipe” for processing and using the plants. Suggest that several kinds of protection – using local repellent plants, ensuring that stored crops stay dry, using triple bagging, etc. – are always better than relying on one method of protecting stored crops.

For more information:

  • Search through Farm Radio International scripts on pest management for scripts on the use of local plants to manage storage pests
  • New Agriculturist on-line, 2000. Focus on natural repellents. New Agriculturist, 2000, Number 2.

2nd story:Some crops don’t suffer much damage in storage

Story: A farmer who is new to the area plants crops which are not usually grown in the region: for example, finger millet. His neighbours have been suffering through seasons where half of their crops were lost to storage pests. They laugh at his attempts to grow and store new crops, and are surprised when their new neighbour’s crops suffer very little damage in storage.

Message: One way to minimize storage losses is to grow crops which do not have major storage pests.

Further suggestions: Some crops do not suffer as much damage as others during storage. For example, in some cases, traditional crops are not grown any longer because they are considered poor people’s food. If you talk to older farmers, you may discover that there are traditional crops which do not have storage pests. In other cases, crops which are new to an area may not have storage pests. For example, monkey orange has a very hard shell and can be kept in sheltered storage for 2-3 weeks. Also, some crops should be stored in particular ways. Stored bambara nut is susceptible to beetle damage when shelled, but its pods are extremely resistant to pest infestation.

For more information:

3rd story: Crops which you can store in the ground

Story: Each year, half of a farmer’s harvest of sorghum, cassava, yams and sweet potatoes is eaten by pests while in storage. He complains to his neighbour, who grows the same crops but does not seem to have as serious a problem. They walk through the neighbour’s farm and the first farmer asks his neighbour where he stores his tubers and sorghum. His neighbour’s secret is that he stores his cassava, yams and sweet potatoes in the ground until they are ready to eat, or he slices them into chips and dries them. He uses an underground storage pit for his sorghum.

Messages: For some crops, underground storage can minimize pest damage, especially when underground storage prevents damage from serious above-ground pests.

Further suggestions: Talk to farmers in your area and ask them whether any farmers in the area store their crops underground, or whether they store their tuber crops in the ground until they are ready to eat or process.

For more information:

4th story: Making and using a solar dryer

Story: A woman’s cooperative extends the season for selling sweet potato products by building a simple solar dryer. One member of the group visits a coastal city and sees women using a different kind of solar dryer to dry and preserve fish. The two woman’s groups learn from each other about the best ways to use solar dryers, and what kinds of foods can be dried for later sale or consumption.

Message: Solar dryers are inexpensive, prevent crops from rotting, and allow producers to sell dried crop products after the main harvest season, when prices are higher.

Further suggestions:  Talk to farmers and find out what other crops and crop products can be dried. Think about crops which are not usually dried – is there a farmer who is willing to experiment with drying them?

For more information:

5th Story: Making leaf powders for health

Story: A farming family moves to a new area. During the lean season, their neighbours observe the new family’s children eating an unusual food. They ask what it is. The mother replies that it is leaves which have been dried, turned to powder, and then mixed with grain and cooked. The leaf powder is very high in protein and vitamin A. Her children are healthy despite the drought. She tells her neighbours how to make leaf powder.

Message: Making leaf powder is easy and has health benefits for the whole family.

Further suggestions: Making leaf powder is a good way to ensure that the vitamins contained in green leafy plants are available throughout the year. Talk to people in your area about other ways to preserve fresh vegetables and fruits, so that their nutritional benefits are available year round.

For more information:

6th story: Improving traditional storage structures

Story: A young farmer is critical of traditional farming. An older farmer challenges him to do better. The young farmer takes on the challenge. With the older farmer’s help, he experiments with traditional storage practices and structures and discovers ways to improve them.

Message: A combination of traditional knowledge and scientific experimentation can result in effective crop storage.

Further suggestions: Talk to progressive farmers in your area. Ask if any farmers have made effective changes to traditional storage practices. Ask agricultural extensionists in your area whether any research has been conducted on the effectiveness of traditional storage structures. Is there a way to use the principles behind modern storage techniques to improve traditional practices?

For more information:

  • Nageeb Ibrahim Bakheit, Kees Stigter and Ahmed el-Tayeb Abdalla, 2001. Underground storage of sorghum as a banking alternative. LEISA, Volume 17, Number 1, April 2001.
  • Wambugu PW, Mathenge PW, Auma EO and HA van Rheenen, 2009. Efficacy of traditional maize (Zea mays L.) seed storage methods in western Kenya. Ajfand online, Volume 9, Number 4, June 2009.

7th story: Killing bugs with sunshine

Story: A farmer despairs when insect pests damage his stored grains and groundnuts. After a visit with a relative from another part of the country, the farmer learns to use polyethylene film to build a home-made “roaster” which uses the heat of the sun to kill insects in his stored crops.

Message: Simple technologies, such as those which harness the heat of the sun, can help protect crops against crop pests.

Further suggestions: Talk to farmers in your area. Find out if there are other ways in which the heat of the sun can be harnessed to protect stored crops.

For further information:


  • Contributed by: Vijay Cuddeford, managing editor, Farm Radio International
  • Reviewed by: Neil Noble, Practical Answers Technical Adviser, Practical Action

Information sources