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In this chapter traditional methods of storing grain at producer level and in entrepreneurial warehouses are briefly reviewed. The greater part of the chapter is devoted to describing 'improvements' or developments of grain storage at these levels.
It is often stressed that traditional storage methods are the product of decades, if not centuries of development, perhaps by trial and error, but certainly as a result of experience of the users and their ancestors. This maxim must, in general, be upheld as true and would-be 'developers' should employ utmost respect for traditional practices when endeavouring to introduce 'improvements'. Traditional storage methods at producer level are usually well adapted to both the types of grain for which they are intended, and the environment in which they are employed. Consequently, storage losses are often already minimal and it is difficult to justify interference with the established system.
However, for a number of reasons, this is not always the case. In the first instance, it is well known that rural communities are very conservative in their attitude towards change. Thus, if such a community is uprooted, perhaps as a result of conflict, and is forced to move into an environment which is very different both climatically and geographically from that to which they are accustomed, it may take them a long time to adapt or change their grain storage practices accordingly. This is almost certainly the case in central and eastern parts of Zambia (author's personal experience), where the 'traditional' basket type of store is not the best form of grain container for local climatic conditions).
Secondly, a growing shortage of the materials traditionally used for the construction of grain stores (usually caused by extended use of such materials) may force rural people to seek alternative means of storing grain. This is the case in the Anatolia region of Turkey, and in Lesotho where ancient grain storage practices have virtually disappeared, because of the depletion of supplies of suitable timber and/or grass.
Thirdly, but by no means unimportant, the introduction of high-yielding varieties of grain (which are usually more susceptible to infestation by insects than traditional varieties) and the spread of exotic insect pests of grain (e.g. Prostephanus truncatus) through trade or aid have disrupted erstwhile effective storage practices, to the extent that they have had to be abandoned or at least considerably modified with outside assistance.
Traditional grain traders throughout the world have tended to depend upon fairly rapid turnover of stocks as a means of minimising losses due to pests and other factors. Consequently, their storage facilities vary in quality and condition. With the advent of Government intervention and the establishment of quasi-government grain marketing organizations in many countries, especially during and immediately after the Second World War, the importance of good grain storage facilities and management became apparent. Most of the 'improvements' in warehouse design are associated with such enterprises. The recent tendency to revert to private grain marketing and storage has high-lighted the need for improving the standards of storing and managing grain stocks at this level. Hopefully, the suggestions and recommendations for improving warehouses given in this chapter will help in this regard.
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