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.

 

Through the eyes of a writer

I am a communicator. I enjoy telling stories.

Sometimes I get to stare into the souls of people I talk to, when they let me; and each time I revisit a community, our connections rekindle again, no matter our language barriers.

Visiting Lamu again this time, brought a mixture of anger and confusion.

Anger because Lamu had been one of the most peaceful areas that World Concern operated in. Now the innocence gone, and with it lives of some of our partners.

Confusion because I couldn’t understand how the scale of grisly attacks was rising each day, and yet no one seemed able to contain it by week three when we visited. Frankly, I felt like a jilted lover. By who? I couldn’t tell.

Mpeketoni_shopping_centre
A section of Mpeketoni shopping centre

Our first day in Mpeketoni was bad; our second day in Hindi was terrible. I remember my colleague saying,

“You should see a psychiatrist.”
“No, YOU should see a psychiatrist!”

We half-joked, knowing well that we badly needed closure.

motorbike_Hindi_Lamu
Source of income gone

Listening to grim real life stories was sobering, especially seeing powerful emotions roll off adults so effortlessly. Men the age of my father told me that they were afraid. I saw families eat just plain rice as the only day meal, because they had no alternative. In fact many would go for days without a meal (and still are).

A teenager, barely 16 years old shared photos of such gruesome murders to an extent that my colleague stayed awake for nights, yet this boy was living with them in his phone; in his mind.

Although I got to capture stories with some level of success on the first day, the second became extremely difficult.

I had trouble concentrating on any more testimonies of human agony. The photos I took that day were either too exposed or too dark, too out of focus or too poorly composed. After each session I would ask myself, “what is happening with me today?”

Burnt_house_in_Hindi_Lamu
Karisa, where his house stood. Hindi.

Knowing that our resources were limited, and that the people in so much agony were ordinary people like me, was disturbing.

Bneficiaries

We ended our first phase of emergency response hearing the voices of hundreds of grateful vulnerable women and children whom we assisted. But we also left tens of residents trying to raise just bus-ticket monies to flee a place that reminded them daily of unimaginable horrors that had befallen them, yet they couldn’t. Also, many were hungry, and their mental health delicately unsteady.

Today, as I document each story, their voices of anguish and hope urge me on. I write silently hoping that my words sit uncomfortably in the heart of my reader to make them want to do something!

Lamu: The unfolding of a crisis

What started as an ordinary crime to the unsuspecting mind . . .

edwin kuria  edwinkuria  on Twitter3

. . . quickly turned into a disaster. A situation was unfolding right in front of us, and in seconds social media went ablaze.

I was tracking it all, silently hoping that security personnel would arrive quickly enough to stop the madness. But that took a long while, on a long and agonizing night.

Mpeketoni distress call

Mpeketoni calls

Too numb to call any of my friends, I made a chain of incoherent uncoordinated prayers, already shaken to do much else. Yet journalists were yet to unwrap the horror that residents went through, and they did a few days later:

Larry Madowo  LarryMadowo  on Twitter

Larry Madowo  LarryMadowo  on Twitter2

Despite heavy deployment of security personnel, the armed bands of about 50 men have continued to prowl on more defenseless men executing them in cruel fashion. Today marks day 40 of an unending scene of real life horror. The impact is massive.

I witnessed it a week ago, when World Concern set up camp to assess and assist hundreds of displaced people. Even though some humanitarian organizations have exited the area, it is time to respond! Residents need help now. We cannot sit and wait when lives of people less fortunate than us are at risk.

For me, this is a chance to respond to the likes of Boniface who cried out on that night. It is a priceless opportunity to assist families who have lost their fathers, and all they care about.

edwin kuria  edwinkuria  on Twitter

I interviewed Catherine, a young mother who bore a beautiful baby on the fateful June 15th. She bore her right at home, because she couldn’t dare to step out. But she named her Mapenzi. Now Catherine is doing all she can to feed and keep her baby, warm; but it’s not easy.

I spoke also to elderly farmers who left their animals caged more than a fortnight ago, but they have not returned to their farms since. Now they roam around town centres like paupers, some dressed in the same clothes they were in, that night. You have limited options when all you escaped with was your life.

They live in fear. At night, about 3,000 men, women and children seek refuge inside a prison. Imagine that. . . Here, they sleep on cold cement floor each night, or out in the open. On some nights rain falls, but the halls are too full to occupy anymore. In fact, rain pours into the hall through the dilapidated roof.

Roof - Hindi Prison

Arriving-for-the-night-Hindi-Prison
A family arrives early for another night at the previously unused hall at Hindi Prison
Preparing-for-the-night-Hindi-Prison
Early arrivals book their families’ space for the night

What now?
In the next few posts, I will share some of these stories with you. Real life experiences of brave men, women and children who are doing all they can to survive. They are trying. But they desperately need warm clothes, tents, medicine, food-including food supplements for children and psychological support.

Currently, about 5,000 people are seeking refuge in 4 IDP camps: Mzee Kamenya (80 households), Ndeu (86HH), Mzee John Musembi center (38HH) and Hindi Prison (505HH).

World Concern is in Lamu responding to this emergency crisis, and we need your help.

Do you have skills, or life-saving supplies that can support these families in some way? Please get in touch with wconcern@wcdro.org

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The cause of the current crisis in Lamu could be a complex tussle for resources which has manifested itself in the shades of religious intolerance, politics and terrorism – leaving behind a trail of disrupted lives, livelihoods . . . and a thick cloud of tension on what lies ahead.

By Edwin Kuria