Kenyan innovators offer solar drying solutions for farm produce

From a distance, the block and wire structure looks like a small chicken coop. On closer inspection, however, its interior walls are lined with black polythene sheets, which you would not find in a poultry house.


“This is a solar vegetable dryer. The black sheet helps to attract and retain heat from the sun to dry vegetables faster,” said Emmy Misoo, an officer from the University of Eldoret, about 260 km northwest of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, during a recent exhibition in Eldoret, the capital of Uasin Gishu County.


Misoo then lifted a transparent nylon sheet that served as the dryer’s door, removed a bunch of dried leaves from the gadget, and placed them in a plastic box. She then stuffed the dryer with another bunch of freshly harvested traditional vegetables to dry.


“In about eight hours, I will remove them because they would have dried to the desired level,” Misoo said.


The dryer is one of the solutions researchers in the East African country are presenting to fresh produce farmers and traders to curb post-harvest losses.


The dryers dry various kinds of vegetables for longer shelf life, as well as fruits such as mangoes and bananas, and tubers such as cassava and arrowroot. Unlike vegetables, however, tubers and fruits must be chopped into small pieces for faster drying.


At least 30 percent of the agricultural produce harvested in Kenya is wasted due to poor post-harvest practices, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Farm produce includes vegetables and fruits, which farmers harvest in bulk and find difficult to store as they seek markets, leading to waste.