Cowpea Production in West and Central Africa
Source: Langyintuo et al., 2003
The beneficiaries of the PICS project are the farmers and their families who produce and sell cowpeas in West and Central Africa. These impoverished people, most of whom earn less than $2 per day, grow cowpeas (also known as black-eyed peas) for family food and to sell for needed cash. If no measures are taken to protect their grain, farmers lose about half of all cowpeas to weevils after harvest. Faced with seemingly inevitable losses, they often sell their grain at harvest—when the price is lowest—because they cannot store it. Some farmers treat cowpea grain with insecticides to stave off weevils, but that creates health and environmental problems.
We now have a simple, low-cost, insecticide-free, and village-proven storage solution to post-harvest losses of cowpea grain to weevils: hermetic (airtight) storage in a triple-layer plastic (PICS) bag.
The PICS project has helped farmers in areas where cowpeas are sold as a cash crop and enter into the regional trade system. As shown in Figure 1, in West and Central Africa most cowpeas are grown in the band at the south end of the Sahara desert. This includes almost all of the rain-fed crop area of Tchad (Chad), Cameroon, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Senegal. For the coastal countries of Nigeria, Benin, Togo, and Ghana, the major cowpea-producing region is the northern half of each country.