By Edwin Githinji
Worldwide, 1.3 billion of all the food produced for human consumption is lost, spoiled, or wasted. This observation is more vivid in developing countries, where the storage facilities are made of straw and wood.
This makes the harvest vulnerable to rain, infestation by rodents and insects, and insufficient cooling for temperature sensitive produce, an amount that if saved, would level up the status of food availability worldwide without requiring additional resources, or further harming the environment
Most of the counties located in eastern Kenya suffer the most from drought as a perennial problem. Compared to other counties where farming takes place, one would easily get convinced that this region is very unproductive. Even so, farmers of this region are more than ever before committed to ensure that by taking advantage of the short, wet seasons to grow crops, that narrative of unproductivity is completely thwarted.
To cut down the post-harvest losses that are incurred by these hardworking farmers, Stephan and Rachel Bleyer, a German based couple offered to put up and equip a solar-powered cooling plant.
“Unlike the common story that this region is unproductive, there is a huge amount of produce coming from here, especially fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices,” Stephan said during the handing over of the Cellux cooling plant to Joseph Muuo Farm, in Kithimani.
“Were it not for the contribution no everyone who partnereda in the development of this project,” said Stephan, “we wouldn’t be here. Cellux manufacturer, Suncooling and Kramer, donated 90% of the cooling plant after they heard of the farmers plight, while Mzee Muuo offered a section of his land to install it,” he said.
Stephan said they chose a machine that operates off-grid since there is no power supply in that area.
“Besides offering a place for farmers to safely store their produce,” he added, “the cooling chamber will allow the community to aggregate and access a common market, thereby avoiding exploitation by brokers.”
Rachel, on the other hand said that such investments will ensure food security in the counties and the country in general, while at the same time eradicating poverty.
At the event were the locals who, with smiley faces were not left behind in celebrating the blessing that this cooling plant would be to them.
Zachariah Mwaka who grows bananas, French beans, eggplant, tomatoes and capsicum for export said the installation of the cooling plant was timely, when they all in dire need for it.
He also urged the national and county governments to install similar facilities in other high horticultural producing semi-arid areas, so as to cushion farmers from the post-harvest losses they incur repeatedly.
“We appreciate this couple for gifting us this facility, which has a holding capacity of slightly more that 40 tonnes of produce, which cannot serve all the affected farmers in Kithimani only, let alone all the other regions,” he said.
Mzee Muuo said farmers in his locality were welcome to use the cooling plant on his farm and urged others to volunteer grounds for such or even bigger installations, incase a donor came by.