Widely grown in West Africa, the cowpea is not only a major source of protein, but is also highly prized by the farmers as a source of nitrogen and fodder. However, the commercial value of the crop and potential for a larger market share has been severely limited by storage losses due to infestations by cowpea weevil (Callosobruchus maculatus F.). It was vital to develop an effective and affordable technology, followed by large-scale dissemination which required an effective approach to reach the millions of cowpea farmers and other stakeholders in a short time.
A triple bagging technology was developed through laboratory tests then disseminated. Trials evaluated various combinations of bagging techniques using the number of layers and their thickness; it was found that cowpea stored in two high-density polyethylene bags of 80 microns, weevils can no longer proliferate. Disseminated in pilot villages and then scaled-up to thousands of villages, the extension activities reached more than 4,217 villages within three years. A functional supply chain that included manufacturers, distributors and vendors helped make the technology available in rural areas. These efforts helped address three major challenges: i) availability of good and effective storage technology: ii) reduce the use of insecticides which lead to health risks due to misuse and overuse; and iii) a reduction in the level of post-harvest losses.
Adoption of hermetic triple bagging two years after the launch was at 30%, with the female participation rate being over 40%, indicating that extension efforts were effective in reaching farmers. This led to a reduction of storage losses, increased income and improved food security among smallholder farmers. Cowpea has been included in the government’s National Food Security Consolidation Programme as one of the important food security crops.