The first solar-powered bubble drier which improves the quality of grains while keeping intact its nutritious values arrives in Kenya. It has been installed as a part of a project to fight malnutrition among vulnerable urban and rural consumers. It further retains the commercial value of the grain and will greatly benefit 50,000 rural and urban consumers by the end of the project after aiming to reach five million small farmers in Uganda and Kenya. The rains often damage the crops while drying during the harvest season. To overcome this problem of the farmers of Kenya and Uganda, a total of eight solar drying units will be given to them. Moreover the dried produce will be bought directly by a company that will turn them into nutritious porridge flour, adding value along the supply chain.
Traditional drying has losses of 15-25 percent in weight and quality leading to up to considerable revenue loss to the farmers. The solar drier, which has a transparent tube that inflates so the air can circulate, is designed to be simple and affordable but effective at drying products to a higher standard than traditional methods. Along with this the makers are testing the technology with farmers and processors in Kenya and Uganda to improve food safety, nutritional value and profitability before being introduced more widely. Initial testing of the driers with farmers has created much interest, especially among women, as it reduces their workload. Rwanda, Ghana and other countries are the next target once the project here is complete as the drier can be used to dry other crops like rice, corn, sorghum or soya beans.
The drying technology is being tested in Kenya and Uganda by farmers and processors to improve food safety, nutritional value and profitability. The results of this work will enable the team to improve the technology and introduce it in many other countries across Africa. Linking farmers with the private sector will provide farmers with ready markets for their products. With this innovative product the farmers would have access to quick and consistent and faster drying that would fetch higher prices as a result of increased product quality and would be able to reduce risks of spoilage and contamination in adverse weather.
The food processing industry currently focuses mostly on middle and high income consumers
while neglecting the lower income groups. This technology would bring highly nutritious food, at a low cost, in the market for the very poor. Further this endeavor also reduces carbon dioxide emissions as the solar heater replace conventional energy source like oil heated air dryers. The technology researchers and product developers are studying the malnutrition levels of the poor and the nutrients that are necessary for them. This would help them device products and strategies to reduce the cost of food they pay to acquire it. For example, the food processing companies can add the essential nutrients to the porridge brands they market, at a considerably lower price. With growing usage and acceptability of such innovative products, companies can source in bulk from local farmers and then pack in small volumes for their consumptions. Everybody has the right to healthy and nutritious food and linking poor consumers with such products will help achieve the goals of the companies for reducing malnutrition.