Carrots farmers who were losing about 30 per cent of their harvest due to lack of post-harvest handling techniques are now recovering following the installation of Zero Energy Cooling Chamber.
Zero energy cool chamber is an alternative to a common refrigerator.
This is an on-farm storage chamber, for fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers to extend their shelf life.
The shelf life of fruits and vegetables can be controlled by reducing the storage temperature
The simple technology -that relies on the simple thermodynamics of bricks, water, and sand to maintain carrots at cool temperatures and thereby extend their shelf life by up to many days-is being used by farmers in Nyabihu District
Women have also got jobs from the cooperative
Recently Joseph Gafaranga, the Secretary-General of Imbaraga Farmers Organisation, told Doing Business that the lockdown left farmers with a number of lessons including the need for investing in post-harvest handling techniques because farmers counted losses due to market difficulties linked to the Covid-19 lockdown.
Eric Mbanzabagabo, the President of the Cooperative “KOGIMUIN” which grows vegetables and fruits, said that following the installation of Zero Energy Cooling Chamber under the support of Hinga Weze project, the cooperative managed to avoid giveaway prices since as the technique has enabled the cooperative to preserve the produce for a long-term period.
“Due to lack of post-harvest handling techniques, we had to sell all the produce at poor prices as a way of preventing carrots from rotting away when it was not possible to store them for a long period,” he said.
The cooling facility holds 300 crates of carrots, each carrying 15 kilograms.
Having started in 2016, the cooperative of 159 members also benefited from the washing station provided by the district.
“We were trained on post-harvest handling techniques under the support of Hinga Weze Project. We learnt how to avoid losses along the value chain from farms to consumers. We now have a cold room that can store our carrots for months. When prices are low, the cold room helps us to wait and sell when prices get better,” he said.
Mbanzabagabo said that when their harvest is over 300 sacks of carrots per day, the rest is stored in the cold room to avoid giveaway prices.
“We have learnt that carrots can last five months in the cold room without damage,” he said.
He said that before embracing the technique, one sack of carrots would be sold at Rwf5,000 due to lack of market access.
“Selling at between Rwf15,000 and Rwf20,000 is profitable but selling below Rwf10,000 means a loss. The technique allows a farmer to sell one sack at Rwf20,000 as we store carrots and only target the period with better prices ,” he said.
The farmers also supply carrots to Nyabugogo in Kigali City at the Rwf33,000 price per one sack of 120 Kilogrammes.
The cooperative set up carrots collection centres in various parts of Nyabihu district.
“We bought land and we also lease tillable land . We grow carrots on two hectares. We have demonstration plots in every sector. The season for harvesting many carrots is between November and April,” he said.
Creating jobs for youth
Since agricultural activities continued despite Covid-19 lockdown, the cooperative kept giving jobs to youth.
Eric Nsengiyumva, a 25-year-old said that through carrying and washing carrots, he earns Rwf3,000 per day.
“I have joined a savings association in which I save part of the wage. I manage to pay health insurance for my family. I had no land but I have leased one and also bought goats,” he said.
Felicien Bizimana, another resident from Jenda sector said that he gains Rwf2,000 every day from washing and packaging carrots.
“This is the third day doing this job and my children have never suffered from food insecurity,” he said.Follow NkurunzizaMiche