Solar Tunnel Dryer made from Corrugated SheetIiron and Steel Profiles. Photo courtesy.
The University of Nairobi (UoN) in partnership with the Ewaso Ng’iro North Development Authority (ENNDA) has launched a reload project that will see Isiolo livestock farmers preserve surplus meat for up to one year using a solar tunnel dryer hence reducing losses.
The targeted product is traditional meat known as ‘nyiriri’ among the Somali community or ‘koche’ among the Borana.
According to Dr. Catherine Kunyanga, UoN food scientist, the technology will enable farmers preserve meat for up to a year and still commercialise it.
“Reload means reducing losses and adding value. And this being our pilot programme in the county, we expect that the community, whose main source of livelihood is pastoralism, will embrace it to make more returns,” said Kunyanga.
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According to the Institute for Agricultural Technology in the Tropics and Subtropics at the University of Hohenheim where the technology was developed many years ago, solar tunnel dryer is employed for the hygienic preservation of foods. And the method is substantially superior to traditional drying.
It is where seasonal agricultural surplus, deficient transport capabilities for fresh products and insufficient preservability of undried products are overcome.
Currently the technology is used in over 75 countries worldwide.
Kunyanga says unlike other solar dryers, there is no forced convention with solar tunnel dryer, whereby you force warm air over the product. All the produce dries at the same time, making it an effective technology.
“For maize farmers, it is also a good way of drying their produce since it corrects moisture content, hence farmers can store the produce for long and reduce aflatoxins,” she said.
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The technology can also be used to dry vegetables, most fruits and herbs. The cost of importing the solar tunnel dryer from Germany is Sh1.5m, whereas locally fabrication dryer costs about Sh600,000.
“However, it is important to note that no products should be mixed when drying. If you are drying meat today, then let it just be meat.”
For farmers in a cold region, such as Meru, and there is no much sunlight, you can connect power to this system and it will still dry your produce. This means that as a farmer, you are able to dry your produce throughout the year,” she said.