Act4Africa female community mentor and leaders
Our Grains for Growth programme aims to educate and equip women in the rural district of Mayuge, Eastern Uganda, to safely store grain for their family’s needs, or for selling at an appropriate time to bring in much needed income. Desperately poor women are empowered and enabled to make decisions and take action to improve the food security and economic prospects for their families. Their status within the home increases and they begin to grow and make positive changes within their community.
What’s the background to this project?
I have spoken to dozens of individuals whose lives are blighted due to an inability to produce sufficient crops from their meagre parcel of land. To make matters worse, most subsistence farmers then lose around 30% of their grain crops after harvesting, primarily due to insect infestation and mould development during storage.
What is this project and how does it work?
Through workshops delivered by Act4Africa, people learn how to dry and store their grain effectively and learn simple methods to ensure the grain has reached an optimum level of moisture. These workshops are backed up with simple instruction manuals in the local language. Dry grain is then stored in airtight plastic containers, manufactured by WFP’s approved suppliers. Containers are sealed securely and left sealed for at least one month. This ensures that any insects present in the grain are killed off rather than multiplying and destroying the grain.
Following this training programme, grain losses have been reduced to virtually zero by these simple interventions.
The containers are very sturdy and have the potential to be used for around twenty years.
Each container holds enough grain for 1000 meals.
What are the implications?
Firstly, people can feed their family for a prolonged period with grain in good condition. Drying grain in the correct manner also prevents fungal growth and the development of high levels of carcinogens know as aflatoxins.
The World Health Organisation reports that “long-term or chronic exposure to aflatoxins has several health consequences including causing liver cancer and has “the potential to cause birth defects in children.” The WHO also reports that “aflatoxins cause immunosuppression, therefore may decrease resistance to infectious agents (e.g. HIV, tuberculosis)’ Sadly, the situation gets even worse. In areas where the poorest quality grain is used for animal feed, aflatoxins can be found in milk. Subsequently these may be passed to infants though breast milk.
In short, storing grains in poor condition has long term health implications, reduced life opportunities and causes death. I have spoken to individuals who are forced to eat grain which has gone off when there is no other alternative.
Properly stored grain can be held back by householders and sold later in the season when prices have risen. Within a few months, grain can double and even treble in price.
Some children are expected to take a bag of grain to school in order to enrol each term. A simple thing like having a few kilos of grain available can help keep a child in education. Our team in Uganda have met individuals who know that grain in their silos will secure their children’s next term at school. In a world where so much can go wrong this is hope.
During the Covid pandemic, those who have previously benefited from the WFP training rolled out by Act4Africa have shown greater resilience. They have been able to pull on their grain, properly dried and stored in their silos. In short, these people have better food security which is helping them get through this unprecedented crisis.
So simple, so effective. What next?
WFP have rolled out this programme in several African countries in the last 5 years and it’s been stunningly effective. We have seen for ourselves the effectiveness in this our first pilot programme in Mayuge.
We are now seeking funding for containers, and the money to support personnel to deliver training and training materials.
Equipping, training and supporting a group of 35 families costs approximately $10,500. This cost also includes significant follow up work to ensure the training is properly embedded for the long term. The World Food Programme and our own experience has shown this effective training and the follow up work changes people’s lives for ever. It provides skills which will bear fruit year after year, long after the trainers have left.
If you wish to support this programme please donate via the GIVE NOW button below. A donation of just $10 covers the cost on two airtight bags to store grain safely to provide 250 meals.