Ezeckiel Moudoh grows maize in southern Togo. Humidity and pests regularly destroy a big part of his stored crops. He says, “No matter which storage method we use, it doesn’t prevent us from losing part of our harvest.”
Every year, a third of the food produced in the world for human consumption is wasted. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that at least 13% of grains harvested in sub-Saharan Africa are lost or spoiled. This represents enough calories to feed 48 million people for a year. The losses are due in part to poor storage conditions.
Wesley Fioklou Messan-Koudosso is a 23-year-old Togolese engineer who invented a tool that may help farmers reduce post-harvest losses. The digital device monitors stored crops to ensure optimal conditions. The young inventor calls his device Mèchọtọ, which means “supervisor” in the Fon language spoken in neighbouring Benin.
He explains: “As soon as the user indicates which product is being stored, the device automatically sets the temperature range and humidity required for storage. Beyond that authorized margin, the user gets an alert on their smartphone.”
The device weighs about 300 grams. It has a sensor and a nine-volt battery—which means that even rural farmers without electricity can use it. It uses Bluetooth communications technology to transmit data, which users can view on their phones or on an LCD screen.
Users who don’t read can choose audio or light alerts to notify them of any changes to storage conditions.
The device sells for 60,000 CFA francs (US$113).
Agbéko Kodjo Tounou is an insect researcher at the University of Lomé, in Togo’s capital city. He says the pests that thrive in humid areas, and especially fungi, are responsible for most post-harvest losses in Togo. When humidity is high, harvested crops can develop mould, and some moulds produce a carcinogen called aflatoxin.
He adds that the device also allows farmers to avoid using chemical products, which can be dangerous to human health when used on foods.
Mr. Tounou says: “The use of this device in storehouses will allow farmers to take measures as soon as there is a possible threat from humidity, and thereby reduce their post-harvest losses.”
The inventor plans to add a dryer and an air conditioner to his device, in order to automatically control the humidity and temperature to match the needs of the stored products.
For Mr. Moudoh, even if the Mèchọtọ device can help reduce post-harvest losses, the best solution for farmers like him is to process surplus crops.
He adds, “The real battle against agricultural losses lies in [making sure to] process the part of our harvest that won’t be consumed immediately.”Every year, a third of the food produced in the world for human consumption is wasted.
This story was adapted from an article titled, “Un kit numérique pour réduire les pertes agricoles au Togo,” published by SciDev.Net. To read the original article (in French) please see: https://www.scidev.net/afrique-sub-saharienne/agriculture/actualites/togo-kit-numerique-pertes-recoltes.html 
Photo credit: Jan Gottwald