Purdue University received a new five-year project, a 3rd phase of the Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS3), funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The PICS3 project aims to improve market access and food security among smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. The PICS technology is a cost-effective triple layer hermetic bag that allows farmers to store their grain without the use of insecticides. PICS3 builds on the successes of the Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage (PICS1) and the Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS2) projects. PICS3 will expand the commercialization of PICS technology for several crops throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Activities will be focused in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda but will reach into other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (and beyond) using leverage support.

The PICS3 goal is to increase the use of hermetic storage technologies by 20 percent of grain (maize, sorghum, wheat, rice, peanut, common bean, etc.) stored on-farm in target countries. This will reduce post-harvest losses of these cereal and legume grains while increasing incomes and improving food security of smallholder farm families. The use of PICS bags provides farmers the flexibility to sell when they want while supplying healthy, clean and insecticide-free food to their families throughout the year.

The PICS3 project seeks to increase the total quantity of grain stored in Sub-Saharan African countries using hermetic technologies by 20 percent by:

  1. Building awareness by training farmers and other stakeholders in 14,000 villages/farmer’s groups in the focus countries while linking them to PICS bag vendors;
  2. Developing a sustainable supply chain by identifying manufacturers and established distribution networks of vendors; and
  3. Building the capacity of the private sector, local scientists, and extension agents to sustain post-harvest loss (PHL) reduction.

In addition to training, PICS3 will utilize Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools such as radio, cell phones, and other platforms such as Short Message Service (SMS) to reach farmers.

The PICS3 project is working with national and international research/extension organizations and NGOs to disseminate the PICS bags in Sub-Saharan Africa. The target is to reach farmers in 14,000 villages in target countries. Private entrepreneurs including seven plastic manufacturers, distributors and vendors are producing and selling the PICS bags to farmers. Leverage activities will expand to other countries in Sub-Sahara Africa and beyond. Expanding the use of the PICS bags to store other crops will increase business opportunities for the private sector and reduce seasonality of the market.