Knowledge for Development

Food security in Africa: an innovative technique for cowpea storage

Author: Clementine Loule Dabire Binso, (FRSIT), INERA, CNRST, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Date: 28/03/2014


Dr Binso won the fourth prize in the Women in Science competition. In her interview with Knowledge for Development she explained that her research had shown that hermetic triple bagging is effective in reducing post-harvest losses of cereal and legume grains without the use of insecticide. ‘Hermetic triple bagging technology is a viable alternative because it is effective in reducing grain storage losses and it provides farmers the flexibility to store and sell when prices are high’. She expects that effective extension approaches will lead to quick adoption and commercialisation of the bagging method among smallholder farmers and thus will improve food security through steady supply of quality grain. ‘This recognition means a lot to my career and should serve as an encouragement to women scientists whose research contributes to food security. It gives me confidence to commit myself more to research that supports smallholder farmers, especially rural women to improve their livelihood.’ In five years time Dr Binso sees herself as a specialist in crop storage and an advocate of triple bagging technology.  


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.