It’s all in the bag! Reducing post-harvest losses in Sudan

The World Food Programme (WFP) and the Government of Sudan have an ambitious goal; to eliminate hunger by 2030. WFP is helping farmers in Sudan increase their crop output with the simple use of hermetic bags.

Belinda Popovska
Nov 26, 2018 · 4 min read
Farmers explore the value of hermetic bags as a simple and cost effective way to store staple grains in Sudan. Photo: WFP/Muhammad Salah

Smallholder farmers in Sudan lose approximately 30–40 percent of their harvested crops annually — mostly its staple sorghum, due to the widespread damage caused by insects, rodents and mold. External climatic conditions significantly impact harvests, including regularly occurring droughts across eastern and western states of Sudan. The impact of such harvest losses to annual production adds to the food insecurity across many states that are reliant on agriculture as the primary source of income.

All smiles as WFP staff member educates the community on more efficient harvest storage in Kassala State, Sudan. Photo: WFP/Muhammad Salah

WFP is encouraging farmers to use hermetic bags for crop storage instead of traditional jute bags, by educating farmers on the potential value through savings. WFP aims to reach over 4 million farmers over the next 5 years.

Suha Ali El-Sharief is a young entrepreneur in Kassala State’s Delta locality. At only thirty-one, the proud mother of four daughters manages a group of 21 smallholder farmers’ associations with a total membership of over 600 farmers across the locality. Most farmers own an average of 5 acres of land with an average productivity of 7 bags of sorghum per acre.

Suha Ali El-Sharief, explains to female farmers the value of hermetic bags to improve harvest. Women in Sudan account for 60 percent of the agricultural sector. Photo: WFP/Muhammad Salah

Seeing is believing

To prove the effectiveness of hermetic bags to farmers, a WFP team carried out an experiment comparing the different types of bags to farmers over a three-month period. The team revisited the group for the opening of the bags to view results.

Suha is among 45,000 smallholder farmers using hermetic bags. Her group is one of several smallholder farmer groups selected for the experiment; they were asked to keep three bags of crops tightly tied and stored. After three months, Suha hosted a gathering in her own house where both a WFP team and smallholder women farmers witnessed the bag openings after the storage experiment.

The results were astonishing; the crops stored in the new hermetic bags were intact, free from infestation and as clean as they were when originally stored. Interestingly, the infested crops which were stored in hermetic bags were also free of live insects — showing that hermetic bags also helped to eradicate insects. In comparison, the crops stored in traditional (jute) bags were damaged; a common problem for farmers.

“It is a very successful project as it reduces post-harvest loss to almost zero,” says Suha. “This is a great initiative from WFP that continues to help people across the country.”

Female Smallholder farmers gather in the community to collectively view the results of the three-month experiment, where different storage techniques were used. Photo: WFP/Muhammad Salah

Make it at home, make it cheaper

WFP is engaging the private sector to manufacture and distribute the hermetic bags locally and at a reasonable price. This will be key to WFP’s plan to reach millions of smallholder farmers across Sudan over the coming years.

Women at Suha’s event all expressed their willingness to use hermetic bags for this harvest, which has begun this month. They requested however, that hermetic bags are sold at affordable prices that are equal or less than those of traditional jute. A hermetic bag currently at US$2 — only 0.60 cents more than the traditional jute bag .

Sudan is heavily reliant on the agriculture sector, with two thirds of the population residing in rural areas — accounting for 40 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and employing 80 percent of the labour force, of which women account for approximately 60 percent and are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate changes.

“We live in an agricultural country and I believe that we can only prosper if we focus on agriculture and use our large fertile lands effectively,” says Suha.

Find out more about WFP’s work in Sudan.

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme