In this initiative, farmers are encouraged to process seasonally abundant fruits and vegetables into dried products by using mixed solar dryers and to trade them by barter or sell them through an interactive SMS service. Drying fruits and vegetables, together with a barter/trading system through a mobile phone platform, has the potential to prevents food loss, create a value added product in the place of waste, and positively impact seasonal food insecurity while meeting local food preferences. Combining existing solutions might result in one greater solution.
Our target is to create pilot projects, to assert the actual impact and feasibility of the idea across selected locations.
Why food loss and food waste?
It is estimated that every year, globally, one out of four calories produced is lost before it reaches the consumers, either by spoiling after harvest, or wasted at the end of the supply chain. In developing countries like Nigeria, this happens mostly at the post-harvest and distribution phase. According to WRI working paper, (2013), 44% fruits and vegetables is lost in weight (Figure 1 gives an example). Reducing food losses means:
- Reaching people with these otherwise lost calories
- Creating health and economic opportunities, and affecting food supply and prices
- Reducing the huge footprint that food production, processing and distribution have on the environment, biodiversity and resource use (Food wastage footprint: FAO, 2013).
- Ensure food security
Why sun drying?
Passive drying uses the energy of the sun, which is cost-free and readily available, especially in countries with a large amount of solar radiations. Sun drying has been used for centuries as a technique to defeat seasonality and extend the life of plant products, thereby ensuring availability of diverse food almost year-round. Drying also makes transport much easier as it reduces water content and therefore weight and vulnerability of food. Improved sundrying techniques preserve most of nutritional qualities and micronutrients of the product. Thus, it offers also a valid means to fight nutrients malnutrition, which comes with the consumption of almost exclusively staple foods when cheap fruits, vegetables and tubers are not readily available.
Why an interactive SMS system?
As a fact, 75% of the world’s population does not have access to the internet and its services as communication and information provider, especially in rural areas with low or no coverage. Therefore using an SMS-based rather than an internet-based platform ensures that the service will be accessible from any type of mobile phone. For this reason, we want to make use of a system that connects smallholders drying their surplus, with other smallholders and traders, creating a communication network (Figure 2).
Thanks to cooperatives and other retail hubbs, farmers can exchange products on a national scale. The reach of international markets is also possible, when the supply and quality standards of the products have been ensured.