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Solar Dryers in Tanzania

Field Notes From Tanzania – Pt. 3: Increasing Crop Value with a Solar Dryer

Roger Peters, an OREC Board Member, shares with us how solar technology is being used in Tanzania in a four part blog series.

Climate change is already hurting farm families in Tanzania.  The `short’ rains that normally fall in November and December just did not come in 2016 – preventing farmers from supplementing their income by growing fresh vegetables. The long rains normally come in March, but this year they started early before farmers had completed their soil preparation.

Under these conditions, post-harvest preservation and storage becomes very important. This is where the UN World Vegetable Centre (WVC) in Arusha comes in. As well as seed storage and pest management research, the WRC conducts extensive post-harvest research. They develop low cost and low energy cooling systems to keep produce from spoiling on the way to market, and solar dryers to dry fruits and vegetables for longer term storage.

Their solar dryer design is a simple wood and plastic unit in which air is drawn through a solar heated zone and dries vegetable and fruit slices placed on racks. The farmer’s community listening group in Kitwe featured in my past two reports are planning to make a solar dryer their next purchase. It would be shared among all members of the group to dry vegetables and fruit to sell at the local market.

There are several ways that the members of the group could each contribute to buying the materials needed to build the dryer. The group has an informal savings and loan system of its own for the women to deposit excess revenue and borrow from at a nominal interest rate. For those farmers who have already purchased a solar home system using the money they used to spend on kerosene, they could continue using this same stream of savings for their share in the dryer.

Farm Radio International is planning to develop radio programming in cooperation with the WVC to provide farmers with the information they need to build and use the solar dryer. As with other programming, farmers will be able to phone in to radio stations and receive advice from an WVC expert during the programs.

My last report will feature two new safari lodges in Tanzania that are powered totally by solar PV and that heat all their hot water with solar as well.

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