Solar Dryers Save Time, Increase Income for Afghan Farmers

Sayed Abdul Karim, a farmer from Zhari district of Kandahar Province
Sayed Abdul Karim, a farmer from Zhari district of Kandahar province
USAID
Expedited process produces higher quality dried fruits and vegetables
“The loss of damaged fruits or vegetables and the production cost can be prevented by dehydrating fruits and vegetables. With dehydrated produce, there is no off-season.”

September 2016—In many rural areas of Kandahar province, farmers grow fruits and vegetables, which have to be sold in the market immediately after harvesting. An oversupply during the harvest season equals lower profits for the farmers.

Drying fruit and vegetables is one common solution. Not only does the process allow Afghan farmers to avoid selling produce at extremely low prices, they can store the fruits and vegetables for a long time with a lot less space. They can also ensure a steady stream of income during non-harvest months.

Sayed Abdul Karim, a farmer from the district of Zhari, had always dried vegetables and fruits using the same techniques used by farmers for thousands of years. While well-trodden, this method took a lot of work, a lot of time, and risked contamination.

That was before Karim had the tools to leverage an abundant resource in Kandahar: the sun.

“The loss of damaged fruits or vegetables and the production cost can be prevented by dehydrating fruits and vegetables. With dehydrated produce, there is no off-season,” said Karim.

The old techniques involved laying fruits and vegetables under the sun on a flat, open surface such as a roof. During the day, dust, flies, insects and disease would damage the produce. During the night, dew would cause further damage. Also, excessive sunshine would turn the produce black, diminishing its value in the markets.

The new solar dryer dries fruits and vegetables faster and cleaner than the traditional drying method and protects them from open-air damage. The produce in placed on five layers inside the dryer, which has a heat control system that can regulate the degree of heat generated from sunshine. The dryer also has tools such as a scale to measure, basins to clean, and knives to slice the produce, all designed to improve the quality of the product.

Today, Karim no longer has to wait so long or work so hard. With a new solar dryer, and a little training from USAID, he easily produces a higher quality supply of dried fruits (grapes, apricots and figs), and vegetables (tomatoes, eggplants and okra) in less than two days where it used to take him over a week.

Karim was one of 100 Afghan farmers who received solar drying equipment and training from USAID’s Kandahar Food Zone Program (KFZ) project in 2015. He is so confident in his new source of profit that he has trained his family to use the solar drying equipment and hopes to increase his dried produce next year.

Kandahar Food Zone Program interventions are designed to strengthen and diversify legal rural livelihoods in targeted districts by identifying and addressing the root causes of instability that lead to opium poppy cultivation. More than 800 people have benefited from alternative livelihood activities of the five-year, $45.4 million program, which runs from July 2013 to August 2018.

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Last updated: September 26, 2016

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