Simple technology, big impact
More than 30 years ago, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) started a post-harvest programme in Central America named “Postcosecha”. The significant impact that was still evident long after the project end also continues to exist after the cessation of external support. The current priority in SDC’s contribution to post-harvest management (PHM) is to use existing knowledge and experience to create conditions for scaling up the most appropriate PHM technologies in sub-Saharan Africa.
The “Postcosecha” project, launched by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in 1983, was designed to protect small farmers from post-harvest losses and lead to greater food security for the families. “Postcosecha” is Spanish for post-harvest. At the heart of the project is a “menu” of four different technologies for reducing post-harvest losses. The most popular technology turned out to be a simple, hermetic metal grain silo, fabricated by local artisans, that protects dried corn and beans from insects, mice and rats, as well as against decomposition – in a cost-effective way by means of fumigation or oxygen depletion without chemical by-products. The silos and three other technologies were selected for market entry after several years of evaluating smallholder demand in rural Honduras. In particular, the silos spread like mushrooms in Honduras, then Guatemala (the region’s most populated country) and finally Nicaragua and El Salvador, totalling a number of 670,000 in 2009. Assuming a service life of at least 15 years, one can expect to find a minimum of 600,000 silos still in operation, serving 415,000 farm families, on the basis of an average of 1.4 silos per family. Each farm is thus able to safely store about a tonne of maize or beans, Central America’s most important staples.