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Mango crisps help Kilifi farmer avoid losses

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To coun­ter losses in rot­ting of man­goes due to com­pet­i­tion and oversup­ply dur­ing har­vest, Kilifi County farmer Juma Mwaringa has moved into dry­ing and pack­aging the fruit into crisps using solar and wind power.

The farmer uses the hy­brid wind and solar power ma­chines to dry chopped crisps. The drier, which has tur­bines and solar pan­els can day and night provided there is wind. Solar pan­els mainly tap the en­ergy during the daytime.

Global United Na­tions agency, Food and Ag­ri­cul­ture or­gansi­ation , says 40 per cent of the total pro­duc­tion an­nu­ally goes to waste or is lost. 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 mar­ket are sat­ur­ated.

Mwaringa adopted the dry­ing of the man­goes to extend their shelf-life from less than a week to about three months or more.

“When the man­goes are in plenty, the cost drops from about Sh30 to Sh10 for each ma­ture fruit. But with this ma­chine, I am not wor­ried about 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 sells a packet of 250g at an average of Sh150. About 90 per cent of the fruit is water, while the rest is flesh.

On av­er­age, one fresh mango can shrink to about 170g when dry. The same mango could have earned a max­imum of Sh30 in re­tail in towns like Nairobi yet it needs a small top-up to earn more than four times.

Pack­aging ma­ter­i­als cost Sh5. Seal­ing of the poly­thene bags is done by fold­ing and passing the edge near a flame of fire.

Mwaringa chops the flesh into discs of about five cen­ti­meters wide in the solar-panel powered gad­get to quicken the water loss process.

Besides the slowed loss rate, the farmer ex­tends the shelf-life of the man­goes to more than three months.

“I rely on road­side vend­ing. Sometimes I visit Watamu Beach wherever I know there are many people there,” Mwaringa said.

The drier uses wind power in the absence of the sun. That means the tur­bines can run even at night if there is wind to gen­er­ate the re­quired heat to expel the mois­ture.

It takes about two days to dry 10 kilos of the man­goes.

Other farm pro­duce can also be dried using the cham­ber.

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