BENEFITING: IT TAKES A VILLAGE AFRICA CORPORATION
Drying fruit is cheap, simple and very effective. Using the power of the sun, a solar dryer can dry almost any fruit and many vegetables. The sun evaporates the moisture content of the food meaning if they are then stored correctly, dried fruit can last for years.
It Takes a Village Africa is focused on providing self sufficient solutions to agriculture. We believe in maximizing our value and minimizing our waste. Helping farmers provide products that will be a value to our community will provide them with the funding they need to provide for their families.
Drying fruit is a simple process allowing you ‘add value’ to harvested fruit, drying and storing it so it can be eaten and sold out of season. It also means fruit that may be wasted at harvest time to oversupply can now be put to a good use!
All you need to do to start making money is build a solar dryer, prepare and dry fruit, then package and sell it. We will dry Mangoes, Pineapple, Berries, Apples, Bananas, Plantains, Cherries, Peppers and Tomatoes. A Solar dryer is a simple construction that uses the sun’s heat to prepare food. Solar dryers are wooden structures consisting of a transparent panel above a chamber or collector that is painted black to absorb the suns heat. Fruit or other food is prepared, thinly sliced and laid out on a mesh tray above the dryer floor inside the chambers. The dryer must be well ventilated to let in warm air but protected enough to keep out pests and dirt. Dryers can be cheaply and easily produced out of wood and wire mesh, and placed either on wood stands or bricks. Plastic see-through acrylic is cheap and provides a good transparent panel to cover the dryer. Remember to face the dryer towards where the sun shines the longest during the day – this can be done by pointing it to the equator.
Advantages of Drying Fruit
1) Adding Value: Raw fruits often have little economic value, especially during harvest time. A kg of dried fruit can be worth 10 times more than a kg of raw fruit! By drying and processing your fruit you add value to the product, allowing you to sell it at a higher price and greater profit.
2) Long Lasting: Often fruit harvesting is still based on seasons. As a result during harvesting time a particular fruit flood the market, but is then often unavailable outside of season. Dried fruit can last for years if sealed correctly, meaning you can store it and sell it out of season.
3) Transferrable and Lifelong skills: Drying fruits is a cheap, simple and universal process. Involving students gives them clear identifiable skills that they can carry with them.
Our 5-step Guide to Drying Fruit
1) Cultivation: The fruit you are going to process first needs to be grown. You can either do this yourself, or if you want to increase production you can buy in fruits from other farmers. If you have the land and capability, cultivating your own fruit can increase your profit margins.
2) Preparation: The fruit needs to be washed, peeled and then thinly sliced and placed onto a tray in the solar dryer. Make sure the fruit is cut evenly and has not been contaminated.
3) Production: Remove most fruit from the dryer when it is leathery or brittle. When cut in half, the color should be uniform. Light spots may indicate moisture. The drying period depends on the humidity and the type and size of fruit being dried, but usually takes 3-4 days in a tropical / sub-tropical environment.
4) Storage & Bagging: Once the fruit is prepared it has to be stored appropriately. Packaging needs to be air tight, and can either be in sealed plastic bags or jars. If using bags, buy a bag sealer, fill small plastic bags with 50g of fruit, and then seal them. Sealers cost as little as $50. Make sure the bag is airtight and clean, and that the product is clearly labelled.
5) Selling: Once the product is ready for sales, you will need to conduct quality check, get your product to market, and start making money for the community!
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