On May 28th, 2015 Key Farmers Cameroon in collaboration with a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer launched their solar food dryer project. After two informational meetings in Kumba and a neighboring village of Kake, interest and excitement among farmers, producers and processors is booming. Following review and evaluation of the capacity of the project it was decided that 72 farmers would be included in this pilot phase. The construction of the dryers is set to commence in August and will be followed by processing and transforming workshops as well as business classes to aid in marketing these new value added products.
For a more detailed description of the background and objectives of the project please refer to the explanation below.
Due to a multitude of reasons including poor farm to market roads, seasonality of crops, competition among farmers and lack of preservation techniques and know how, the vast majority of farmers in Kumba suffer post harvest losses. Traditional sun drying methods, which are usually the first step in conservation and processing, have many disadvantages such as sanitation, pests and insects, vitamin loss, exposure to rain and extended drying time. Because of these challenges as well as lack of transformation and processing knowledge, farmers have yet to enter the value chain process and continue to suffer food insecurities. By adding value to their products, farmers can increase their incomes and livelihoods while simultaneously supporting food security in their homes and communities.
The objectives of this project are three fold and all comprehensive. The first stage involves the creation of individual dryers to be distributed to the according farmers and farmer groups. The second stage involves holding various trainings to teach farmers and producers how to process and transform a variety of products. Then the final stage, in coherence with monitoring and evaluating will be training producers on how to market their new value added products both nationally and internationally and assisting them in discovering new markets. Basic business skills and training would complement this stage as well.
The advantages of this solar food drying model/technology are overwhelming and not only will its ownership more effectively dry and preserve food stuffs, but it will also encourage further transformation. All in all, this inclusive process can lead to increased livelihoods for farmers throughout and will help fight food insecurities in the region.
The ideal outcome for this project is expansive. Individuals who take full advantage of trainings and newly acquired knowledge on top of their solar food dryers will process and transform their crops, marketing them at a higher value and henceforth increasing their incomes and livelihoods. At the very least, farmers will be equipped with an improved drying technology that will effectively dry numerous food stuffs, therefore reducing food insecurities in their homes and communities. By taking this first step in food processing and preservation, farmers and producers can create vast opportunities for themselves.