Dried and delicious: Solar dryers help growers store fruits and vegetables longer

| November 20, 2017

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This week’s Farmer story from Zimbabwe talks about using solar energy for irrigation. This week’s Script of the week shows that solar power can help with post-harvest activities too.

Post-harvest loss and food waste is a major problem. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that as much as 32% of food rots in farmers’ fields, is spoiled in delivery, or wasted when it not consumed or used in other ways.

Good post-harvest practices can ensure farmers make the most of their harvest. By drying fruits and vegetables, farmers can store their harvest longer—for up to a year. Dried fruits and vegetables also earn farmers more money, as they can be sold for a higher price when fresh fruits and vegetables are no longer available in the market. They also help families eat a varied diet throughout the year.

In this script, we speak with Ngoni Nenguwo, a post-harvest specialist at the World Vegetable Center, about how to dry vegetables—and how a solar dryer makes this practice quicker and safer. It keeps dust, debris, and pests away from the product. And a solar dryer can get 15 to 35 degrees hotter than the outside temperature, meaning that fruit and vegetable slices dry much more quickly.

We also hear from the chairwoman and the manager of the Kilimanjaro Natural Foods Cooperative. Members of this co-operative make a good income selling dried fruits and vegetables to grocery stores, hotels, and tourism companies in northern Tanzania.

If you use this script as research material or as inspiration for creating your own programming on solar dryers, visit farmer groups or co-operatives in your area that have a solar dryer. You might ask them:
– How did they build the solar dryer?
– What fruits or vegetables (or other foods) are they drying? How do they prepare the product before drying it?
– Why are they drying fruits or vegetables? Do they sell them? Or simply store them for later use?

You could also ask your listeners to discuss how they process fruits and vegetables to consume weeks or months after harvest. This could be the topic of a phone-in or text-in program.