Economic analysis of determinants of grain storage practices and implications on storage losses and household food security in Makoni and Shamva Districts in Zimbabwe.
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Despite notable advances in grain storage practices, many smallholder farmers in southern Africa still rely on traditional practices for storing staple crops such as maize. Traditional storage practices do not offer adequate protection of grain against pests such as the Larger Grain Borer (LGB) hence significant post-harvest losses (PHL) are recorded in storage. More so, little attention has been given to the study of the economics of PHL and storage technology, particularly in the smallholder farming areas where issues of food security and poverty are concentrated. This study meant to compare the economic viability of traditional and improved storage technologies, examine the factors that influence smallholder farmers‟ choice of storage technologies, analyse determinants of willingness to pay for a metal silo, and determine the effects of storage technologies on household hunger gap and market participation in Zimbabwe. A structured questionnaire was used to collect data from 417 households chosen using the multi-stage sampling method in Makoni and Shamva Districts. Various econometric methods such as cost-benefit analysis, multinomial logit, logit, ordered probit and truncated regression models were used to analyse the data. Storing maize grain using hermetic technologies was found to be most profitable when compared to untreated and ACTELLIC dust (pirimiphos-methyl) treated polypropylene bags. The benefit-cost (B/C) ratios were also greater for hermetic technologies. Comparing the two hermetic technologies, the super grain bags were found to be more profitable than the metal silo. Nevertheless, both technologies were superior to the smallholder farmers‟ storage technology of treated bags. Sensitivity analysis results, on the other hand, revealed that both hermetic storage technologies are sensitive to reduction in investment period. This is a result of the high investment costs that are associated with the technologies. The results, however, indicated that super grain bags are more suitable for smallholder farmers who are resource limited and cannot invest in a silo since super grain bags have a higher financial return than a metal silo. On the other hand, metal silos are the most suitable and robust storage technology for smallholder farmers who have long-term storage investment plans. It should, however, be noted that to create and keep gas-tight conditions in metal silos or super grain bags is a demanding and expensive task that requires pronounced scientific and technical skills. Dissemination of the technology should thus encompass farmer and artisan training package on proper handling and management of the hermetic technologies to reap maximum benefits from the inert atmospheres created. Provision of credit may be required to allow farmers to meet the high initial investment costs. Household head‟s age, education years, marital status, total grain stored, the value of non-food crops, business and wages income, and access to extension services were found to have a diverse influence on the choice of grain storage technologies. Older households had higher chances of using the insecticide storage technology indicating that farming experience influences the choice of grain storage technologies. Therefore, the government and development agents should target older household heads for promotion and dissemination of storage technologies. Marital status also increased the chance of using the insecticide storage technology suggesting that married household heads are less risk-averse. Therefore, government and storage technology development agents should target married households for dissemination, without marginalizing unmarried household heads. Furthermore, the total grain stored influenced smallholder farmers to use the insecticide storage technology versus the no insecticide technology. Thus, policies that promote agricultural production will enhance the use of improved storage technologies among smallholder farmers. Hence, the government should support agricultural production activities of smallholder farmers. Thus, policies that promote agricultural production will enhance the use of improved storage technologies among smallholder farmers. Hence, the government should support agricultural production activities of smallholder farmers. Households with a higher value of non-food crops showed higher chances of using the insecticide storage technology relative to the no insecticide technology. Hence, development agents and the government should develop programs that support the production of non-food crops in smallholder areas without side-lining maize production. Results showed that better-educated smallholder farmers had higher chances of using the insecticide storage technology. The government should develop adult learning programs in the areas to increase access of farmers to education. However, smallholder farmers with income from business and wage activities showed less likelihood to use the insecticide storage technology. This implies that such smallholder farmers have fewer chances of storing grain hence are more likely not to choose the insecticide storage technology. Although access to extension had a negative influence on the choice of storage technology, it is important that government develops specific extension training programs on storage technology particularly the use of insecticide storage so as to equip farmers with proper storage skills and information. In terms of farmers‟ willingness to pay for a metal silo, the results found that the household head‟s age, marital status, non-food crop quantity, equipment value, vegetable income, storage loss and informal activity participation were the key determinants of willingness to pay for a one-tonne metal silo storage technology in Zimbabwe. The results revealed that married respondents and young farmers are more ready to pay for metal silos than their counterparts. While it is recommended that development agents promoting the metal silo technology should target these households for a sustainable approach, care should be taken not to marginalize their counterparts. All the income variables except equipment value showed a positive influence on WTP for a metal silo. Increasing household‟s income will help to ease the financial constraints that often impede technology investment among smallholder farmers. Therefore, policies that encourage diversification of agriculture and also provision of credit are recommended in order to increase WTP for a metal silo. The amount of grain lost in storage had a positive influence on farmers‟ WTP for a metal silo. This suggests that current storage practices are not effective against storage losses and the metal silo can be an alternative effective storage to curb storage losses and hence improve their food security and livelihoods. The study results revealed that storage practices had significant effects on both maize marketing behaviour and hunger gap of smallholder farmers. The use of insecticide storage increased the chances of farmers becoming net sellers of maize. Using insecticide storage reduces the amount of grain that is lost in storage hence farmers are able to preserve the amount of grain available for consumption and also for sale. This implies that safe storage of maize promotes smallholder farmers‟ net maize selling behaviour thus reducing poverty and also contributing to improved food security. Investment in safe grain storage technologies is thus a fundamental key policy issue in developing countries and as such government should design storage policies that encourage dissemination and promotion of safe grain storage technologies at the household level. Household head‟s gender, marital status, quantity harvested, market location, farming systems and district location were other factors that influenced maize marketing decisions of smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe. Moreover, results showed that the majority of the households experienced hunger gap. On average, households that experienced it had a hunger gap intensity of 4.7 months. This means that food insecurity is an issue of concern among smallholder farmers. Policymakers should come up with effective measures to safeguard lives of people either by boosting production or promoting safe storage of maize grain. Several household socio-economic characteristics such as age, household size, gender, marital status, location, education years, and being an A1 model or old resettlement farmer and no treatment storage significantly influence the occurrence of household hunger gap. Farmers who used no treatment on stored grain had better chances of not incurring hunger gap in the study areas. Hence, there is need to investigate the location-specific characteristics of smallholder farmers. The government may also develop programs targeted to improve post-harvest knowledge and skills of smallholder farmers. Smallholder farmers record significant storage losses which lead to the hunger gap. Protecting grain crops is thus an important step towards ensuring food security. Larger household size increased chances of experiencing hunger gap, which suggests the need to implement effective family planning methods to keep the family sizes small. Development agents should provide effective family planning education and training to farmers in the rural areas. Farmers who had larger sizes of cultivated land showed lower chances of experiencing hunger gap than their counterparts. Therefore increasing smallholder farmers‟ access to land will alleviate the problem of hunger gap and food insecurity. Households with a higher level of education had lower chances of incurring hunger gap, therefore, the government should develop adult learning programs to increase literacy levels of households in the area and hence reduce hunger gap occurrence. It was also observed that hunger gap differs by location, farming system, and storage practices. Farmers in Shamva district showed higher chances of experiencing a hunger gap than those in Makoni district, while farmers in the A1 model and old resettlement schemes had better chances of incurring no hunger gap. These farmers have better access to land, and other productive resources thus lower chances of incurring hunger gap. Hence, government supported input schemes should target areas where farmers have less access to inputs so as to improve productivity. On the other hand, the quantity of grain harvested, total grain stored, income from business and wages and land size had a negative effect on hunger gap intensity while hunger gap intensity increased if the household head was married and no insecticide storage technology was used to store maize grain. To sum up, the study, recommends that government should develop policies that encourage farmers to invest in improved storage technologies such as the hermetic metal silo, and also to provide credit to farmers to enhance adoption and dissemination of new improved storage technologies. The study further recommends that government should develop effective extension programs tailor-made to increase and improve smallholder farmers' post-harvest management knowledge and skills, respectively.