Short Communication - Journal of Agricultural Science and Botany (2020) Volume 4, Issue 3
Preservation of fresh fruits, vegetables and quality standards during storage utilizing energy-efficient technologies for improved livelihoods.
Food and energy security are two key global challenges. In Kenya, agriculture is mainly characterized by dominance of primary production with little post-production interventions such as preservation. Preservation of fruits and vegetables can provide rural households with better diets year round and incomes. Therefore, the study focused on developing energy efficient cooling technology utilizing renewable energy for preservation of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Through a renewable energy for food processing (christened RE4 Food) project; an evaporative charcoal cooler was purposely developed for use by a registered farmer group in Kirinyaga County, Kenya. The developed cooler measured 4 m long, 4 m wide and 2.5 m high with a storage capacity of 40 m3. Preliminary results indicate promising results in terms of microclimate conditions (temperature and relative humidity), shelf-life and quality of the produce. The charcoal cooler should be optimized to ensure a favorable microclimate and controlled wetting of charcoal walls thus saving water for other agricultural activities. To improve capacity among farmers, training of beneficiaries was conducted focusing on operation and maintenance of the facility, quality standards, packaging, business aspects and book keeping, group dynamics and marketing. To ensure sustainable and maximum returns from the facility, farmers were also trained on the development of health foods for subsistence as well as for export.
Further, the farmer group was linked with renowned fresh produce exporters in order to maintain required quality standards along the entire value chain of fruits and vegetables. Through established marketing linkages, farmers can package their value added products and deliver them to ready markets, thus generating incomes to the rural poor. These linkages provide valuable business opportunities badly needed in rural communities. Overall, the interventions undertaken by this study are vital in minimization of postharvest losses, enhancing food security and realizing nutrition sensitive agriculture in Kenya and beyond.Author(s): Erick K Ronoh