Two prototype solar dryers with dedicated packing shed in the upper right corner
8. Malawi: Solar Dryers for Crop Preservation and Value Adding Processing
8.1. History and Results
A component of the GreenTech program was to pilot walk-in solar dryers. To fulfill this obligation, SunDanzer again partnered with Malawi Fruits in May of 2021. Malawi Fruits saw a potential opportunity to both preserve and add value to the tomatoes grown by their women farmers as well as other local crops such as bananas, mangoes, peppers. In September, funds were provided for to design and build two types of solar dryer for fruit and vegetables and to test these in terms of production of dried produce. The objects of the pilot project were to: 1. design and build two different types of dryers using solar/battery for any power requirements 2. test the dryers with a variety of fruits, measure the results, and refine the process to get a consistently high-quality product 3. investigate the market for dried products including wholesale and retail packaging requirements. Two prototypes were built using locally sourced materials. One of these, a modification of Modern Farming Technologies' greenhouse proved to both functional and relatively low cost. Two units were quickly bought by a local farmer for drying chilies with another four sold to farmers in Lilongwe for drying cannabis.
In April 2022 more funds were provided to move the project on to the marketing stage. The aims for this second phase were to: 1. continue testing different fruits, especially seasonal fruits which may be available when the ambient temperature is high, the humidity low, and when these fruits are abundantly available (these tests were to cover quality (taste and appearance) and shelf life), 2. develop packaging materials to suit different markets 3. test the market locally, nationally and for export.
After a visit from the Malawi Bureau of Standards, it became clear that MFT would need to have a dedicated pack house with a clean environment for fruit preparation, packing and storage, which they constructed next to the dryers. In May 2022, MFT recruited Gift Lyson. Gift is a graduate from Lilongwe university of agriculture and natural resources with a degree in food science and technology to run the drying operation.
8.2. Current Status
Currently, Malawi Fruits is continuing with Research and Development, determining the best drying and packaging methods while monitoring shelf life of tomatoes, peppers, mangoes and bananas. CEO Kevin Simpson attended the Fruit Logistica conference in Berlin in February to assess export market opportunities. Also in early 2023, the organization won a grant from Fair Trade to get its products certified and receive assistance accessing markets. Currently, MFT is able to sell all the fruit it buys from its growers, but sees drying as the vehicle to further prevent post-harvest losses through preservation and potentially to add value to its fruit. In August of 2023, Malawi Fruits is planning to document its piloting journey and findings in a Case Study.
Two types of dryer have now been designed and built and one of these, a tunnel dryer, has already had some initial tests. After a visit from the Malawi Bureau of Standards, it became clear that if we want to sell the product, we would need to have a dedicated pack house with a clean environment for fruit preparation, packing and storage.
MFT received support in September 2021 to design and build two types of solar dryer for fruit and vegetables and to test these in terms of production of dried produce. In April 2022 a second grant was provided to move the project on to the marketing stage. The aims for this second phase were:
To continue testing different fruits, especially seasonal fruits which may be available when the ambient temperature is high, the humidity low, and when these fruits are abundantly available. These tests to cover quality (taste and appearance) and shelf life.
To develop packaging materials to suit different markets.
To test the market locally, nationally and for export.
This review paper presents the differenttypes of solar dryers that are widely used in Africa and Asia. In addition, the pre-eminent effects of their use onproduct quality, as well as their economic, environmental, and social impacts, are highlighted. Since financial, external, and structural factors play a key role in the adoption and scaling of solar dryers, this paper also discusses the impact of these factors on the effectiveness of solar drying technologies in selected Asian and SSA countries.
In Malawi, GreenTech’s goal is to specify and commercialize a solar cold room for use by smallholder vegetable farmers. GreenTech seeks to cooperate with IFAD’s 2016-2023 Programme for Rural Irrigation Development (PRIDE), which aims to develop 15 smallholder irrigation schemes in eight districts, reaching nearly 20,000 beneficiaries. This report fulfills Activities 1 and 2 of Component 1, and Activity 4 of Component 2, in SunDanzer’s GreenTech contract with IFAD.