Using solar waves to dry fruits in Mpeketoni

About 40 per cent of fruits grown in Mpeketoni, Lamu County’s food basket, go to waste during the peak season due to over production and low prices, reducing incomes of small holder farmers.

World Concern through the Government of Kenya’s Njaa Marufuku programme is addressing this challenge using a unique, innovative and inexpensive technology.

We facilitated a group of 18 farmers to dry mango fruits using solar energy.

Members of solar drier group pose for photo
Members of Solar Dryer group pose for photo

The technology which was first introduced in the country by German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) uses solar panel, battery and greenhouse-like polythene paper called solar film to capture solar waves for drying fruits. Solar heat is harnessed by a solar panel and transmitted by fans as solar waves through a dryer enclosed with solar film.

Mango farmers 6

Mango farmers 7
Section of dryer layout when in use.

Using this innovative technology, World Concern is helping improve incomes of small holder farmers through production of dried fruit snacks for sale. We are also cushioning them from perennial losses arising from lack of ready market and other post-harvest losses.

“We can store mangoes for a longer time and buy plenty of them from our farmers,” said Macharia, Mpeketoni Solar Dryer Group’s secretary. This way, the group will boost incomes of about 500 mango farmers in the area. “We hope to package the dried fruits for sale as a way of adding value,” he added.

Though the project focus was solely mango fruit, the group has gone ahead to dry other fruits and vegetables. “We’re now using the machine to dry tomatoes, sukuma wiki (kales) and cowpeas leaves at the moment,” said the chairman, Mr Geoffrey Mburu.

Mango farmers-3
Returning tomatoes tray to the dryer. Looking on (3rd left) is Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) Value Chain Officer, Mr Munyao.

In this project, World Concern is training farmers on financial management and entrepreneurship, assisting them to set up operations as well as attaining relevant certifications.

One of the group members, Mzee Ndenge, showing where kales are dried in the drier
One of the group members, Mzee Ndenge, showing kales drying

Soon, Mpeketoni Solar Drier Self Help group will venture fully into the mango drying enterprise given their high fruit volumes, market demand and nutritious value of the fruit.

“We look forward to building a big business,” said Macharia.

 

Second chance for ‘Solar Mamas’

I recently met four grandmothers who returned from India with skills in fabrication, installation, repair and maintenance of solar lighting systems after a six month hands-on training facilitated by World Concern.

Seeing them made my trip one of the most memorable.

A grant from UNDP has given these solar mamas, as they are fondly called, a second chance to light homes in Narok.

Kirotiana Kibubuk Narok

Through World Concern’s partnership with UNDP, 65 year old Kirotiana Kibubuk is assisting to light up to 300 homes with bright LED lights which have USB power outlet for radio and phone charging.

The project which begun in February 2015 sees Kirotiana receiving a commission for each house she powers. Her 30 year old Paul is excited, especially when he sees her in her element. “The way I see her working, she knows a lot! She tells me names of complex things, even though she never stepped into a nursery classroom,” he says laughing.

Kirotiana is humbled to assist in lighting up her community. “This is something that God has brought . . .”

We had a tête-à-tête with the mother of eight. Below:

1. How did you feel the first time you went to make an installation?
I was a bit scared and worried that I might have forgotten some things.

 2. How many houses have you installed so far?
Seven houses.

 3. How do you feel about your skills now?
I am very confident. I even know how to re-inforce a solar panel on top of a mud house so it doesn’t cave in together with the roof, when rain falls.

4. What are the must-haves in your tool kit when getting ready for an installation?
A pair of pliers, hammer, screws, pins and a wire.

 5. While handling a role predominantly reserved for men do you feel discriminated against or looked down upon be­cause you’re a woman?
Many who see me working say that I’m a hard worker, but I can secretly see that they wish it would have been them doing this.

 6. In your view, how will solar assist Enoonkoijiok commu­nity?
First, houses will be brighter. When a house is dark, there is a potential of having snakes hiding. With solar lights, one is able to see inside clearly.

Solar light in Narok
Beneficiaries receive last minute instructions during purchase, on maintenance of solar sets

Also having a security light will help keep wild animals at bay. The main problem we’ve had in the past is that hyenas have been eating our sheep. They fear light and can’t come here now.

7. How did an experience in a new country change your world view?
I observed that people in India are way ahead. I would wish to implement some of those things I saw there, but they require money. I pray that by God’s grace I can do some of those things one day.

8. Is there anything that especially struck you during the visit?
Women are in every field. . . be it construction, fabrication, or even tailoring.
Again, they are not wealthy, but they use many machines to do their work.

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Due to remoteness of some areas in Narok, residents lack access to electricity power grid. World Concern is filling market gaps by providing bright four-lantern system sets at subsidized price and at a one-time cost, with 2 year warranty support.

The uniqueness of the project is in empowering not only the solar beneficiary but also helping to equip Solar Mamas like Kirotiana. “The money goes back to the same local economy. It’s more of a community project than business,” says Narok Program Officer John Leyian.

Reducing the use of diesel and kerosene for lighting has also positively impacted on health besides making it easier for school-going children to study.