Taking postharvest technologies from research labs to the farmers

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Date and time: 
Sat, 2018-07-14 19:22

Karurumo Smallholder Horticulture Aggregation and Processing Center at glance

Karurumo Smallholder Aggregation and Agro-processing Center belongs to the Karurumo Horticultural Self Help Group in Embu County. It is a full-scale aggregation and processing center with facilities for both aggregation of fresh produce and also small scale wet and dry processing. The installed facilities include the zero energy brick cooler and evaporative charcoal cooler similar to those in Masii. In addition, the center has a Coolbot cold room which is a low-cost alternative to a conventional cold room.

Based on best practices for produce handling and cold chain management, when the produce is received at the center it is sorted and graded based on the market destinations. Thereafter the produce should be precooled in the evaporative coolers to remove the field heat prior to storage in the Coolbot cold room. The center is also equipped with facilities for small scale wet and dry processing of fruits/vegetables. For example mango which is the main fruit in this region can be wet-processed into diverse products including pulp (puree), mango concentrate and ready to drink juice. Each of the two tunnel solar driers installed at the center have capacity to dry I ton of high quality dried mango chips in one loading.  Processing provides an alternative of transforming unsold fresh fruits into shelf-stable products. Without processing facilities, farmers are often at the mercies of traders who take advantage of their desperation to buy the fruits at very low prices. It is our hope that this situation will change because farmers don’t have to sell their fruits since they have the option of processing. Moreover with high quality and access to markets, processed fruits and vegetables have better returns for the farmer than fresh (unprocessed) produce.

The two centers in Machakos and Embu Counties have been introduced on pilot scale with goal of replicating them in other regions and Counties in Kenya. This will require the support of the County governments and development partners. The vision for this initiative is that smallholder aggregation centers will serve their intended purpose of delivering high quality and quantity fresh and processed horticultural products for the market. This will ensure better returns for farmers while reducing postharvest losses in Horticultural value chains. In addition small-scale processing has potential to spur growth of cottage industries in rural areas thereby driving rural industrialization. Development of cottage industries is where most of the now highly industrialized countries all began their journey to industrialization.

Masii Smallholder Horticulture Aggregation Center (Off-grid)

The center belongs to Masii Horticultural Farmers’ Cooperative Society in Machakos. It is an off-grid center meaning that the farmers do not require electricity to run it. At this stage, the center is mainly for produce aggregation and is equipped with an evaporative charcoal cooler (ECC) and a series of zero energy brick coolers (ZEBC). The ECC and ZEBC operate on the principle of evaporative cooling. When water evaporates from the wet charcoal and sand in the ECC and ZEBC respectively, it takes away heat from the stored produce and the surrounding environment. Evaporating water not only results in a cooling effect but also increases relative humidity around the stored produce both of which slow down spoilage of the stored fruits or vegetables. The evaporative cooling facilities in this center have the capacity to hold 3 – 4 tons of mango fruits at a time. The group has already benefited from group training on good production and postharvest handling technologies and practices from the project team. This group has already started benefiting from the aggregation facility by negotiating for better prices for their aggregated produce. In the just ending mango season, they were able to sell their mango fruits to different buyers for KSH 6 to 10 per piece. This an improvement from the usual farm gate price of KSH 3 to 5 offered by most buyers during the peak season. The group hopes to graduate from simply aggregating produce to aggregation and processing. The Machakos County government is keen to help this group realize this vision as demonstrated by Deputy Governor, Engineer Francis Maliti. He has indicated that the County government will use the center as model smallholder aggregation and processing center aimed at transforming the livelihoods of smallholder horticulture farmers in Machakos County.

About Aggregation of smallholder farmers

Aggregation of smallholder farmers into farmer groups is essential to meet the quantity, quality and consistency of produce required by buyers. The Rockefeller Foundation (RF) seeks to demonstrate the potential benefit of smallholder aggregation through their YieldWise initiative. This is through the University of Nairobi Postharvest Project implemented by a team of researchers from the UON including Dr. Jane Ambuko (team leader), Dr. Catherine Kunyanga, Prof Margaret Hutchinson and Prof John Mburu. The students attached to the project include Emmanuel Amwoka (Msc Horticulture), Esther Mujuka (PhD Agricultural Economics), Antony Mwirigi (Msc Agricultural Economics), Rose Githumbi (Msc Agricultural Economics), Gerald Musyoki (Msc Food Quality and Safety) and Isaac Nyangena (Food Science and Technology). The UON project team is working in partnership with Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and RF’s implementing partner Technoserve Kenya. Under this project two smallholder aggregation centers have been established in two locations: Masii, Machakos County (on-grid) and Karurumo, Embu County (on-grid). Besides produce aggregation and small scale processing, the centers are envisioned to be on-stop shops where postharvest technologies and innovations can be showcased and demonstrated with the goal of increasing adoption to reduce postharvest losses. These include technologies for harvesting, storage, shelf-life extension, packaging, smallholder processing among others.


Expiry Date: 
Tue, 2024-12-31 19:22