Finding ways to limit post-harvest loss during COVID

The immediate effects of COVID-19 on food security and nutrition in Kenya cannot be under estimated. The restrictions in movement, closure of hotels and schools which act as a market for many farmers, and lack of supply for farm inputs pose a critical challenge to almost every farmer. The effect is much more devastating to low income households and communities that already face serious challenges such as HIV, drought or flooding and poor access to essential services.

DIG’s program that focuses on nutrition-sensitive agriculture through field schools implemented in Kenya has actually prepared farmers in Homa Bay to be more resilient and withstand many of the effects from COVID-19 pandemic around household food security and nutrition. Farmers in Homa Bay, where DIG works, have been trained on own home production of fruits and vegetables as well as food safety and preservation at the household level.

An example of this can be seen through three DIG farmers; Alice, Dorcas, and Grace from Rachuonyo South,  Homa Bay County who participated in nutrition-sensitive agriculture training through farmer field schools. They decided to team up to get a solar drier to dry vegetables from their gardens.  They mainly dry kales and different traditional African leafy vegetables. During this rainy season, farmers have harvested tons of vegetables that they could not sell with schools, markets, and other businesses closed due to COVID- 19.  The Solar drier offered them an opportunity to dry vegetables in a more clean and safe environment free of dust and insects and store until they can sell the vegetables at a fair price.

They have been using the solar drier to its capacity – drying 8 kilograms of fresh weight vegetables a day. The drier retains the green color of vegetables and is drastically reducing their post-harvest losses.

One DIG’s nutrition-sensitive agriculture project’s purpose is to improve household access to diverse safe and nutritious foods. Alice, Dorcas and Grace are showing innovative ways to achieve this through a solar drier that is improving farm-level processing, storage, and preservation of food commodities to retain nutritional value, shelf life, and food safety and reducing seasonal shortages and post-harvest losses. Providing a lifeline for these 3 leafy green entrepreneurs while they wait out this pandemic and their normal markets to reopen.