The SARCHI team busy erecting the solar dryer for communities in Venda.
“The highly perishable nature of the leafy vegetables currently result in high postharvest losses in identified Limpopo communities. Sun drying could affect the quality and functional compounds of these vegetables. The findings of the SARChi research programme indicated that, by regulating the drying process, we could minimise the loss of colour, functional compounds and minerals. As such, it was clear that erecting a solar dryer, in collaboration with a private business partner, was important to assist these communities,” explained Prof Dharini Sivakumar, project leader.
This initiative is a demonstration of putting TUT research into practice and improving the livelihoods of rural communities.
“The use of the solar dryer would regulate the drying of vegetables, while the business partner will use the dried material as a functional ingredient in a commercial product. The Phytochemical Food Network programme will also use indigenous knowledge to develop additional food ingredients and recipes. In this way farmers will become part of the value chain,” Prof Sivakumar continued.
Prof Sivakumar added that the project would also help other rural African communities, not just in Limpopo, to alleviate poverty and improve their livelihoods.
“We will use this model as a benchmark to expand the project among other tribal councils in Venda. The programme offers many opportunities for the production of novel and added value products from indigenous vegetables and fruits, which will help to create employment and have many economic, social and cultural benefits for rural African communities,” she concluded.