Bananas and plantains form the staple food in the high rainfall areas of Tanzania. Over 900,000 farming households in the country are engaged in banana production. In particular, in the areas of Kilimanjaro, Kagera and Mbeya, up to 95% of households grow bananas for food and/or economic reasons, contributing more than 60% of bananas grown in the country.
However, the overall banana production does not even exceed 10% of the crop’s potential of over 60-70 tonnes per hectare per year. This is mainly due to an underdeveloped banana handling and storage infrastructure and limited investment and capacity, leading to high costs of operation and rates of post-harvest loss, which in turn translates to low returns for smallholder farmers.
SF, along with East Africa Fruits (EAF) – a social enterprise based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania that connects sellers to buyers of fresh fruits, vegetables and grains – commissioned research with funding from FCDO under our CASEE programme to test the hypothesis that solar off-grid collection centres located in rural areas enable EAF to serve more rural farmers, reduce post-harvest loss by facilitating quality monitoring and storage of more produce, and improve livelihoods by increasing income to farmers.
Off-grid or solar-powered cold storage makes banana ripening viable at the village level, helping to reduce food wastage and providing economic opportunities to smallholder farmers by enabling them to sell ripened bananas instead of green bananas, which have a lower market value. This technology provides uninterrupted cooling that is fit-for-purpose for those places that are off-grid or have unreliable grid connectivity as it allows banana growers to efficiently store and transport their produce at shorter distances and thus reduce the damage associated with deficient storage conditions and long-distance transportation.