Since I arrived, we have been working on something that has yet to come to fruition: building and using a solar dryer. The idea behind the solar dryer is to dry leafy greens to sell in Dar es Salaam and local markets, and the reasoning behind these locations is very different.
First, let’s talk about the Dar es Salaam (Dar) market. Dar is the largest city in Tanzania, and it is exclusively where we sell our honey. There is a large ex-patriot population in parts of Dar, and the honey and other 2Seeds Network products sell well in that market. In this population there are many people who love leafy greens but have trouble getting them, since they spoil quickly and are difficult to transport to Dar. By marketing dried leafy greens to the ex-patriot community, we would effectively fill a niche not being filled by other businesses—and reap the profit. These leafy greens can be rehydrated or eaten like kale chips, and the plan is to include recipe suggestions with each bag sold.
While we want to sell in Dar because of the financial opportunity it presents, our purpose for selling the dried greens locally is very different. In this part of Tanzania, there is a time of year literally called the hungry time. Once the rainy season is over and all the crops are harvested, new crops (mostly maize to make the local staple ugali) are planted. However, it will take months for the crops to be ready to harvest again. During this time, people ration their food supply. Additionally, it is very hot and dry, so it is difficult to grow any vegetables. If we dry leafy greens, we can sell them to local people during the hungry time. This will provide people with much needed nutrients that would likely not be otherwise available. Although we do not expect to earn much money from local sales, it will benefit the community at large.
So that is our plan for the solar dryer! The problem is, we have been trying to get it up and running for months. At first we wanted to get the gardens in good working condition before we started on a brand new endeavor, but once that was taken care of we have hit a pretty big snag. Since December, we have been waiting for one specific part of the solar dryer that is only available at one place in Dar, not any other place we have looked in Tanzania or Kenya. The waiting can be frustrating, but at the same time we do not want to build an inferior solar dryer so we are being patient. Hopefully the part comes in and we can install the solar dryer before I leave in mid-March!
As for the solar dryer location, we are going to house it on a piece of property owned by one of the Partners. This property is in the village, and pretty much equal distance for most everyone. This central location will make it easier for everyone to bring and dry their greens! Currently, we are building a platform for the solar dryer to sit on, as well as a small building that will serve as a workspace for drying activities. This building is very small, just a 9 foot by 6 foot room, but it will be great for preparing the greens for drying and then packaging them once they are done. Once we get the final part of the solar dryer, we will be able to put this new aspect of the business into action. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too much longer!