The University of Nairobi has launched a solar tunnel drier that can be used to dry meat, maize, vegetables and fruits for up to one year in a move aimed at enhancing value addition and boosting farmers’ income.
“The drier is used to dry one product at a time, so no products should be mixed while drying. In cold regions such as the central region, one can connect the system with power and therefore can be used to dry the produce throughout the year without worry,” said Dr. Catherine Kunyanga, a food specialist at UON.
The project has been launched in Isiolo to help pastoralists preserve camel and cattle meat and is more effective than sun drying as the produce dries evenly at the same time.
Local fabrication of the drier costs Sh600,000 and farmers can purchase it collectively to minimize costs.
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Women drying vegetables with a solar drier. Courtesy
The drier will help farmers reduce post-harvest losses with a third of food produced locally lost every year due to poor storage according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.
In 2017 for instance, Kenyan farmers lost 1.9m tonnes of food as they struggled to find markets.
Of the total food wasted, maize, Kenya’s staple food was the most affected with the country losing Sh29.6bn worth of the crop yet it imported another bunch worth Sh42bn.
Green bananas were the second most affected crop as farmers lost Sh24bn worth of the produce.
Other produce that went to waste due to poor storage and handling, transport, and fungi attack, according to data contained in the 2018 Economic Survey released in April, includes Irish potatoes (Sh19.7bn), milk (Sh12.4bn), beans (Sh11.5bn), ripe yellow bananas (Sh5.6bn), sweet potatoes (Sh3.5bn), tomatoes (Sh2.4bn), pineapples (Sh2.4bn), sorghum (Sh1.9bn), and millet (Sh1.6bn).
According to the survey, Kenya loses approximately a third of its produce yearly through post-harvest losses.
The drier will help maize farmers reduce the levels of aflatoxin by correcting the moisture content to below 13 per cent and hence can be stored for one year without going bad.