Text Box: CRS Farmer to Farmer Assignment in Kofele Ethiopia

This assignment was mainly comprised of 2 days of farmer trainings with 2 groups of 20 each day, and both meetings in the morning.  This led to rushed presentations, as each one started quite late while waiting for specific participants.  There was little time for in-depth discussion, though questions at the end were answered.   This schedule may have been unavoidable, as village meetings and religious considerations of the Muslim population need to be taken into account.  The other problem was a very shortened time in Ethiopia due to visa problems, coupled with staff days off on Saturday and Sunday.  Without the visa problem, there would have been plenty of time to have only one meeting per morning.  There was also no time to go visit individual farms, which would have been helpful.
Farmer meetings were held at each of 4 locations (Abosa, Germama, Tulo and Guchi).  80 model farmers were invited to attend, 20 at each meeting.  An additional 3-5 came to the first few meetings.  And additional 18-25 farmers came to the last meeting at Tulo, likely because a village meeting was just wrapping up.  Of the almost 110 farmers, 17 were female farmers.


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The invited farmers are considered model progressive farmers and were chosen by extension for inclusion in the workshops.  Only approved farmers or their substitutes made it onto the attendance sheet (apologies) as they were also used for bag distribution lists.


Text Box: Threshing
Threshing in Ethiopia is done by trampling animals over grain and straw as has been done for thousands of years.  This obviously wastes a lot of grain (up to 30% by some estimates), and damages other grain due to soiling by urine and feces, hurting its value.  It has the potential to physically damage the grain by breaking it, much more so than mechanical threshing.  It also exposes most of the grain to soil, which can increase the risk of exposure to various mycotoxins.  Other methods would be preferable from both a waste and food safety standpoint.
However, alternative threshing methods were not covered.  Mechanical threshing was not covered due to the cost being out of reach for even large cooperatives of smallholder farmers.


Text Box: A typical gas motor powered threshing machine, such as the one manufactured by


Text Box:  Selam Childrenís Village costs between 40,000 and 58,000 Birr. ($2000 and $2900 USD) and It also appears that being able to rent some sort of equipment might involve a cash fee of up to 20% of the value of the crop, which farmers feel is too expensive.  A demonstration of the threshing equipment showing less grain being wasted might make that price seem fair.   An alternative to animal threshing would be to use threshing platforms, where the farmer 



Text Box: beats the grain against a screen.  As noted by the previous F2F representative to the area, Dr. Tinsley, smallholder farmers do not have the caloric intake necessary to do even more manual labor. After talking to a few people, the feeling was that this method of threshing would be much harder on the farmer physically than animal threshing.
It is recommended that funding for some axial flow threshers be pursued, to make them available in the community, either in farmer cooperatives or individual ownership.  There must be some consideration of fees for the downstream users to be sure access and user fees are not excessive.


Text Box: Straw is currently fed to livestock or used in building construction.  Almost all of the straw piles observed seemed to be set up to nicely shed water.   Despite being quite low quality forage (with the exception of teff straw), these may be the best practical uses for it.  It would be preferable from a soil health standpoint to till it back into the soil.  However, the majority of farmers plow their fields with livestock, so this is not practical.  It also wouldnít break down quickly enough for the next crop since it is fairly large pieces, and the land is quite dry after harvest.  Additionally, forage during the dry season appears to be extremely scarce, so any type of feed is needed.  Animals eating straw effectively compost the material and some of it winds up back in the field, or at least on communal grazing land, adding to tilth.  This is far preferable to burning, which would be a typical alternative for disposal of large quantities of organic matter.  
Composting the material would be another alternative, although impossible to maintain the correct C:N (30:1) balance during dry season and another extremely large energy expenditure for the farmer to properly manage a compost pile, turning it as often as necessary.  Straw, for example, has a C:N ratio of 75:1, while grass has a C:N ratio of 20:1, and weeds 30:1.  Balancing the compost pile to keep it composting would take too much land area for the Nitrogen part of the equation, even during rainy season.  The pile also needs to stay adequately wet, so this would be a difficult task immediately post-harvest.
Grain quality:
From a brief walk around market before it was completely set up, grain seems to be well sorted for damaged pieces and mold, though some might not be up to stricter international standards for shriveled grain and other defects.  At each of the 4 meetings, farmers said they donít have any mold problems.  Judging dryness of grain through the sound it makes when poured or shaken, or the feel when one bites it is an acquired skill.   They obviously understand drying and how to tell when it is dry enough if they are avoiding mold formation.   However, it was emphasized that moldy grain should never be eaten or fed to livestock since it could make them sick.

Storage:
Most farmers appear to store their small grains in sacks on the floor or traditional storage, either in their house or a separate building.  The major concerns for farmers at all 4 meetings were rodents and insects.
Grain in bags should be stored on raised platforms away from walls, to facilitate inspection of bags and to deter rodents from attacking grain stores.  Rodents do not like to be out in the open where they are more vulnerable to predation.  Hiding areas that rodents like to use in and immediately adjacent to the storage building, such as piled debris, straw, or vegetation need to be cleared.  This type of sanitation, cats and traps were recommended.  It was unknown what other types of rodent control are available locally.
Grain storage needs to start out free of pests for the new crop.  Regular bags should be shaken out, turned inside out and carefully cleaned and the contents burned, or washed in very hot water when possible to kill pests.  The grain storage area needs to be swept out of old grain and insects and the contents burned.  Old grain that is infested should be used up or fed to livestock before the new crop is stored.  Even so, grain often comes in from the field with some level of infestation.
To be safe, grain should never be stored or transported with items such as gas, oil, chemicals, manure, or any other item that could hurt its quality.  Even if they donít spill directly on the grain, the grain can absorb the odor of some of them.  Raised platforms in the storage area help avoid spills due to any of these or urine from animals that might wind up in the grain storage area, as well as water infiltration due to heavy rain or other.
Hermetically stored grain bags are subject to the same requirements as regular bags.  Additionally, the bags should not be stored in direct sunlight (a good idea for the life of a bag anyway) or near a heat source.  This would allow moisture in the grain to migrate from the hot side of the bag and condense on the cool side, which can lead to mold problems.   It isnít a good idea to use highly infested grain, or store near highly infested grain.  Some insects will chew through plastic, rendering the bags useless for insect control.  Hot water should not be used to wash the inner bags.
Hermetic storage, in the form of PICS bags were introduced.  These are triple layer bags (2 inner layers of polyethylene and an outer layer of 	woven polypropylene).   When properly sealed, they are airtight.  Insects within them die over the course of weeks.  It was recommended that for short term storage (less than three months), regular bags should be used as they are cheaper.  However, for long term storage, hermetic stores are preferable.

There is considerable research on the value of hermetic storage for insect control in a wide variety of crops


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PICS bag usage was demonstrated and copies of the usage instruction poster in Oromifaa were handed out to participants. Posters are also available in many other languages. Before the program started, it was decided to give each of the model farmers 2 bags to try out. 
It was recommended that bags not be given to people not on the list so that they wouldnít come to expect it with further demonstrations.  PICS bags are available at the USAID Farm Service (Barite Agricultural Inputs Trader) in Shashamane for around 35 Birr and can potentially last multiple years if they are used carefully to avoid punctures.


 

 



The hope is that if farmers can try, and learn to trust the technology, they will be willing to adopt the use of hermetic storage.† It would allow the farmer to market high quality grain months after harvest when prices are higher as well as having high quality grain for his or her family.† The price difference between grain immediately post-harvest and several months later is enough to cover the cost of the bag.† Introducing PICS bags to local grain dealers might be another way to spread the technology.† They also have troubles with insects and a vested interest in both themselves and their suppliers keeping their grain clean and insect-free.

Future F2F Volunteer Assistance

Rodents seemed to be one of the biggest concerns of the farmers.† Further discussion of locally available rodent control methods, including where to source items and cost would be helpful. (This may be best served by Extension through the Department of Agriculture.)

If local option for rental of mechanical threshing machines exist, live demonstration of mechanical harvesting methods, including where to source items and cost would help.† It could prove the efficiency of the harvesting and show farmers a higher yield of grain.

Consider possible outreach to grain traders with the hermetic technology to help with community adoption, demand, and supply chain.

SDCOR could use aid in grant writing for mechanical harvesting and/or more PICS bags to make their grants more competitive.