Food loss represents a major global concern. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, one-third of food intended for human consumption is lost globally. In sub Saharan African countries, significant portion of food produced is lost after harvest, as of 2011, making postharvest handling a major issue for the agricultural sector. Yet, most countries often overlook the issue largely, focusing their agricultural efforts on increasing yields or improving access to markets. Ethiopia is no exception. The focus on reducing post-harvest crop losses is rather minimal.

In Babile woreda, like in other parts of Ethiopia, farmers use traditional threshing methods of separating grain from the chaff by beating the grain repeatedly using thick sticks. Estimates indicate that the use of such traditional practices contribute to around six percent of grain loss, undermining efforts to ensure household food security tremendously. The practice is also time consuming, laborious and costly. For example, using the hired labor; farmers estimated that 12 to 14 hours are required to thresh a ton of sorghum – which costs them around 1,328 ETB or more than USD 66 or around 133ETB/ nearly USD 7 per 100k. There is no sign that government extension programs have any plans to tackle postharvest loss; nor is any strategy in place to create access to improved time and labor saving crop threshing technologies.

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Under its objectives of creating and diversifying livelihoods, USAID-PRIME partnering with a private crop threshing machine supplier and interested farmer cooperatives, has facilitated piloting of a small scale motorized sorghum thresher in two kebeles of Babile woreda. The project has supported farmer cooperatives through a cost share to facilitate payment-based crop threshing service provision for the surrounding farmers. The piloted machine has a threshing capacity of 500 to 800 Kgs per hour and costs around 40,000 ETB (USD 2000). PRIME shared the cost of the machine while the cooperatives and machine supplier covered the cost of farm machine testing and training of cooperative members.

The cooperatives have now started providing services. More than a hundred farmers have been able to get the services at a much lower cost of 20 to 25 ETB/100kgs or at about USD 1, a huge reduction in cost. The businesses are also earning reasonable revenues of about ETB 6,000.00 (USD 300.00) in just a month’s time. Apart from the monetary benefits of the farmers and businesses, the introduction of the technology has also significantly saved labor and time for the beneficiary farmers. In short, the following benefits have been derived from the intervention:

  • Threshing cost for 100 kg has been reduced from 132.8 to 20 to 25 ETB
  • Threshing time has been reduced from 12 to 14 hours to nearly 2 hours per ton
  • The time and strenuous effort that women invest in preparing threshing field (sealing the field with cow dung) is circumvented, saving women tremendous precious time and effort.
  • Farmers and development agents estimated that the technology has reduced grain loss by about 66 percent (from 6 to 2 percent).
  • Created two job opportunities for two field technicians.

As increasing household income opportunities is one of the objectives PRIME works to achieve through the facilitation of small business startups that benefit households and create jobs, the project continues to scale up this particular activity so as to stimulate growth, expand businesses and create a better market system that works for the marginalized community. Please click the link to download the success story, PRIME Reduces Food Loss through Supporting Businesses

Categories: Success Stories

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