In a bid to counter poor pricing during peak season and loses in rotting of mangoes, one Kilifi County farmer has resorted to drying and packaging the fruit into crisps hence extending the shelf-life of the fruits from about two weeks to more than three months.
According to Juma Mwaringa, a fresh mango fruit can earn a maximum of Sh30 in retail in towns like Nairobi and Mombasa but by drying he earns up to Sh150 a packet of 250g.
“When the mangoes are in plenty, the cost drops from about Sh30 to Sh10 for each mature fruit. But by drying, I am not worried about the fruits going bad. I no longer struggle to sell fresh mangoes along the Mombasa-Malindi Road as before because the dry ones fetch more,” he said.
Mwaringa uses hybrid wind and solar power machines to dry chopped crisps. The drier, which has turbines and solar panels can operate during the day while at night the energy is provided by wind. Solar panels mainly tap the energy at day time.
On average, one fresh mango can shrink to about 170g when dry. It takes about two days to dry 10 kilos of the mangoes.
Global United Nations agency, Food and Agriculture Organsiation (FAO), says 40 per cent of the total production annually goes to waste or lose. Kenya produces about 50,000 tons annually, of which about 45 per cent is lost in waste or rotting, according to the horticultural department.
This majorly happens when the local and international markets are saturated.
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Mwaringa chops the flesh into discs of about five centimeters wide them in the solar-panel powered gadget to quicken the water loss process.
Packaging materials cost five shillings. Sealing of the polythene bags is done by folding and passing the edge near a flame of fire.
“I rely on roadside vending. Sometimes I visit Watamu Beach wherever I know there are many people there,” Mwaringa said.
Other farm produce can also be dried using the chamber.