We asked Footsteps readers and friends for their top food storage tips and here are some of their answers…
Storing tubers for seed
A basic process for storing tubers as seeds (eg potatoes, yams):
- Dig a hole 20 centimetres (8 inches) deep and 42 centimetres (17 inches) diameter
- Place newspaper into the hole and add a little dry soil on top
- Place clean tubers into the hole (tubers must be unscratched to avoid rotting). Twenty kilograms is an ideal amount for this size of hole.
- Place some newspaper above the tubers and cover the hole with soil.
- Make sure the storage hole is in the shade and protected from rain and flooding. You can create a canopy above it by using sticks as rafters and adding grass, plastic or leaves (eg banana) as a covering.
- This storage facility should be placed where children and animals will not disturb it. The tubers can last up to six months.
Storing cowpea grain
Kene Onukwube, Nigeria
Storing cowpea grain (commonly referred to locally as beans):
- Allow the pods to dry on the field before you harvest them.
- Thresh the harvested pods, winnow and separate the clean grain. Spread out the clean grain in a cool, dry and airy place to dry it further.
- Confirm that the grain is dry by breaking a small sample with your teeth.You know it is dry when the grain is hard and gives a knotty sound when broken.
- Protect against insect and rodent pests by pouring the grain into 10 to 25 kilogram airtight plastic cans.
- As you pour in the grain, separate it into layers of 10 to 15 centimetres (depending on the size of the plastic container used) with a thin layer (about 1 to 1.5 centimetres) of very dry pepper (ideally hot chillies). Cover the plastic container tightly and store until ready for use.
Many farmers testify that they have been able to save several kilograms of grain or seeds using this method, with less than 10 per cent being lost. This loss is usually caused by incorrect tightening of the plastic container or broken containers.
Tea, coffee and pepper
To prevent pests from spoiling your beans you can sprinkle used tea leaves or coffee grounds around your plants to repel the pests. If you are trying to store your crop (eg beans) you can sprinkle ground pepper on them and put them in empty jerry cans. Close the cans firmly and the beans can be stored for a long time!
Willem, northern Uganda
Farmers here often mix neem leaves with grain before storing it for several months. Neem leaves, oil or extract act as a repellent against insects such as weevils, flour beetles, bean-seed beetles and potato moths. Treating jute sacks with neem oil prevents the pest from entering your grain. Neem oil destroys bean-seed beetles at the egg stage.
Also, if you mix neem leaves with clay and cow dung you can make storage containers for grain which are pest-resistant.
[Editor – Bean-seed beetles are part of a family of small beetles called bruchids which mostly attack legumes.]
More on storage
Footsteps 32: Food security and PILLARS: Improving Food Security feature useful advice on food storage.
Farm Radio International has produced a number of radio scripts that share information about storage.
Visit www.farmradio.org/radio-resource-packs to find out more. Package 66 on avoiding farm losses by improving storage methods, Package 79 on post-harvest and Package 90 on farmer innovation are particularly relevant.