There’s a lot of tomatoes in Northern Malawi just now. Up and down the sides of the road and in the market, the women are trying to sell their tomatoes before they rot. It’s 34 degrees today, so tomatoes don’t last long – 3 days at most. Their shelf life isn’t helped by the poor practices in harvesting and storage – the photos below are typical of how tomatoes and other salad vegetables are treated after harvesting, resulting in huge losses.
By the end of 2020 we will have at least 60 Polytunnels in place, with 180 women benefitting from being able to grow salad crops all year. This will be a staggering 480 tonnes of produce!
We are determined that we will address the issue of post-harvest crop losses and we are delighted to announce that we have won support from the Sottish Government and are now starting a new project to reduce the typical losses of 40-50% to less than 10%. The Scottish Government, through a grant from their Climate Justice Challenge Fund, will enable us to provide cropping trays for the women; provide training in post-harvest handling of the crops; provide a solar-powered Chilled Produce Store to extend shelf life from 3 days to up to 21 days; and provide market development support to ensure that the crops reach the buyers. We are thrilled with this development and, since the Climate Justice Fund aims to support those most adversely affected by climate change, we feel our women growers are worthy beneficiaries of this support.
The space beyond our demo polytunnel will soon be home to our innovative solar-powered Chilled Produce Store.
We have been researching this for some time and Star Refrigeration in Glasgow have been great in providing pro bono technical expertise – it’s a real technical challenge to maintain a building at 8 degrees in a hot country with poor electricity supplies!
By aggregating the crops from all the polytunnels and some of the produce from farms using our solar irrigation pumps, the Chill Store will become a wholesale outlet for fruit and veg and will appeal to hotels, restaurants and shops looking for consistent supply of high quality produce with a decent shelf life. Irrigation and polytunnels enable year-round supply which is what buyers need and this, in turn, gives the growers a year-round income for the first time.
Many of you will have enabled us to provide these pumps or greenhouses through your donations and we are so grateful. I hope you are as pleased as I am that the effectiveness of your gifts is being multiplied in this way.