In a bid to help banana farmers preserve their produce and process it into various by-products, The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) has introduced the usage of Solar Dryers under the Banana Livelihood Diversification Project.
Experts from the Ministry of Agriculture reveal that this is one way of helping farmers to achieve value addition for their agricultural produce since dried banana fingers can be processed into crisps, porridge powder, biscuits, cookies, to mention but a few.
According to the experts, the Solar Dryers make use of clean solar energy instead of using ultraviolet rays to dry the bananas and are used mainly by farmer groups that are processing Bananas into chips and flour. They are very efficient and create more jobs in the processing areas, thereby reducing unemployment especially among youth.
They are cheap to maintain because these solar dryers are powered by solar panels and have fans on the inside for temperature regulation.
The beneficiaries of the Banana Livelihood Diversification Project who are currently using these solar dryers are in the high production areas of Mbarara, Ntungamo, Isingiro, Bushenyi, Sheema, Mitooma, Buhweju, and Rubirizi.
They have more efficient, modern dryers for processing Banana chips and flour that were recently installed in their plantations by technicians from the Ministry of Agriculture.
The solar-dryers are located close to the Banana plantations and the processing facilities and are used by beneficiaries who are marketing products from Bananas that require drying.
It is advisable, according to the experts, to install the solar dryers within the banana plantation so as to allow easy usage and the distance of moving the harvested banana from the stem to the dryer. This reduces the chances of contamination from bacteria hence maintaining the quality of the bananas.
Cyrus Galyaki, a former Fullwell Transform hire, is promoting and installing solar dryers across Uganda, based on a design piloted by Fullwell Transform, Makerere University, and Fruits of the Nile.
Fullwell Transform’s vision and approach in this area are to innovate appropriate technologies and solutions for agricultural processing SMEs in developing contexts, and to then catalyze the adoption of these technologies and solutions at scale in a way that maximizes benefits at the local level.
This includes raising awareness and capacity at the level of local technicians and entrepreneurs, with the aim of embedding the ability to design, manufacture, install, and repair at the local level also. Fullwell Transform believes this is not only critical from a sustainability and scalability perspective but is also an opportunity to make an impact in the form of extra income generation and even job creation.
Galyaki is a graduate of Agricultural Engineering at Makerere University, where he worked under the University in collaboration with Fullwell Transform, to design and build an improved solar dryer for research and demonstration purposes.
The success of the demonstration solar dryer led Fullwell Transform to develop a small project to pilot the installation of 3-4 of the solar dryers in Fruits of the Nile’s banana and pineapple supply chains. Fullwell Transform secured the necessary funding and hired Galyaki to help install the dryers.
These installations are now complete, and Cyrus has since started his own business that focuses on the installation and repair of equipment for agricultural processing SMEs.
His offering includes solar dryers and greenhouses based on the design piloted by Fullwell Transform, Makerere University, and Fruits of the Nile, and to date, he has completed over nine installations with more in the pipeline. He has made some modifications to the design – including increasing the scale of the dryers for some clients – but the basic design remains mostly the same.
His clients have ranged from farmer groups to NGOs and academic and research institutions plus the Ministry of Agriculture.
Some of the dryers are being used for research and development purposes, which are already helping to catalyze the scaling of adoption.
Apart from bananas, other products that are either being dried or are being planned to be tested in the dryers include moringa leaves, pineapple, jackfruit, pumpkin, sweet potatoes cocoa, and cassava. These are intended for export as well as local markets. The locations of the dryers are spread across Eastern, Western, Central, and Northern Uganda.