Harnessing Innovation in Ghana to Reduce Food Loss and Waste
Josephine Yeboah and her husband, who met while working at a poultry feed shop years ago, started a poultry farm with a clear vision: Be a leading producer of poultry eggs in Ghana.
But initially, pests ravaged the corn feed for the Yeboahs’ animals, contributing to nearly 30 percent of lost food. The Yeboahs stored their corn in a typical feed storage solution that offered little protection from pests.
In 2019, the Yeboahs began using ZeroFly® Hermetic Storage bags to store their feed. The bags were developed by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for the Reduction of Post-Harvest Loss (PHLIL) in collaboration with private sector partner Vestergaard.
The bags are treated with a controlled-release insecticide derived from extracts of pyrethrum daisies to protect feed from pests. This method of insecticide delivery does not compromise the grain safety for humans and animals consumption, but stops insects from entering the bags. This ultimately keeps food safe longer and prevents spoilage that releases gasses harmful to the environment and contributes to climate change.
Since using the bags, the Yeboahs haven’t encountered any pests. The Yeboahs were able to increase their poultry productivity from 1,000 to 50,000 birds over five years. With every thousand birds added to their flock, they also increased their egg sales by 20 percent. From using these bags, the Yeboahs saved nearly $1,400 in income and nearly $3,600 in production costs over five years.
By preventing major crop damage and food loss, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, the Yeboahs can now feed their chickens more corn and reduce their environmental footprint.
According to the United Nations, one-third of the world’s food is either lost or wasted, and 40 percent of food loss occurs before crops make it to market. This loss hampers efforts to end hunger and malnutrition and contributes up to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to a lack of cash flow, supply chain hiccups and labor shortages that cause more food loss and waste—leading to more harmful gasses being released into the environment which contribute to climate change. These ZeroFly® bags are a small way to combat these effects.
“The bags have helped a lot because 100 percent of our corn is able to be stored for later use,” Yeboah said. “The bags have helped us increase the corn we can keep healthy and decrease post-harvest loss.”
Globally, climate change has led to more droughts and reduced harvests from less reliable rainfall. That’s why the bags are so important to the Yeboahs, who can hold onto their harvests longer. The Yeboahs can save contents in the bags for up to two years, which holds about 100 kilograms, or 220 pounds. That’s like saving maize for the diets of about 250 hens over the course of a week, with maize being one of the main components of their poultry’s diet.
PHLIL has trained nearly 50 farmers in Ghana to use the ZeroFly® bags. Dr. Georgina Bingham, an Associate Research Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and PHLIL researcher, said that PHLIL worked with private-sector partner Vestergaard to develop the ZeroFly® bags.
“Not only are these bags safe for consumers, but they also reduce the spread of fungal toxins such as alfatoxin,” Bingham said. “These toxins, which can spread in eggs, can cause cancer in humans and animals.”
Back on the family farm, the Yeboahs set a vision for community impact. They have introduced other farmers to the ZeroFly® bags and have become a local supplier. Josephine is also now a leading member of the Women in Poultry Association Dormaa chapter.
The Yeboahs regularly donate 14 crates of eggs to area youth and are proud, they said, of their efforts to boost nutrition and adapt to the effects of climate change.