Cold Storage Facility To Benefit Ol’kalou SMEs
The agricultural sector plays an important role in food security, employment creation, income generation, and enhancement of livelihoods of farmers, traders, and processors in the value chain. The sector contributes approximately 25% to the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with over 50% of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) depending on it. However, despite the significant contributions to the national economy, agriculture suffers major losses due to post-harvest wastages and low-value addition. Ranging from weight loss due to spoilage, quality loss from poor storage, nutritional loss, and seed viability loss, post-harvest losses in agriculture remarkably impacts the economic contribution of the sector with an estimated loss of 20%-30% of the harvests.
To mitigate these losses, the County Government of Nyandarua together with the Micro and Small Enterprise Authority (MSEA), set to construct a cold storage facility that is targeted to have a storage facility of 100,000 metric tonnes per cycle. It is equipped with the latest technology, ensuring that the potatoes are kept at an optimal temperature to prevent wastage. It also has optimal grading and sorting equipment, which guarantees the quality of the potatoes, making them more competitive in local and international markets. This move is meant to reduce post-harvest losses in vegetable farming around Ol’kalou in Nyandarua County. It also allows farmers to store their harvests and sell them when the market prices are better.
Working with a local food processing equipment manufacturer, Techwin Limited, the county ensured that the facility has optimal cold rooms, vegetable and potato collection, weighing, grading, and sorting equipment, which guarantees retention of the quality of the potatoes thus improving their competitiveness locally and internationally. This facility will greatly reduce the post-harvest losses from Nyandarua County.
“As it is, farmers sell all their produce immediately after harvesting. At that time, the market is flooded therefore prices are low. The farmers may not get value for their hard work. This cold storage facility will keep the vegetables fresh for a duration to allow stability in the market and give them room for value addition,” said Engineer Wanjohi Muchemi.
The ability to store the vegetables for long durations without losing the quality will also widen the product reach and access to international markets hence resulting in higher economic returns for the respective participants in the value chain. In addition, this cold storage will be instrumental in sustaining both the producer and the consumer, while fulfilling the demands of value addition and increasing the shelf life of the vegetables.
The cold storage facility together with the one in Kisii will be supplied and installed by Techwin Limited in collaboration with different stakeholders and the local community. To keep up with the growing economic demands, it is important to incorporate technology in the agricultural sector. The Ol’kalou Potato cold storage facility is one of many technological advancements that stand to benefit the country’s economy.
Lack of knowledge on how to incorporate technology in our rural farming setups has been one of the reasons for continued losses in agriculture. There is a need for extensive training and advisory services including digitally enabled agripreneurs. To reach their full potential, farmers and agribusiness enterprises need to have knowledge of the latest technologies and data. To fill this gap, Techwin has been training farmers and entrepreneurs in Ol’kalou and various regions in Kenya on different technologies that reduce post-harvest losses in different value chains in agriculture. Such technologies include using cooling tanks, milk ATMs, pasteurizers, chilling units, and modern storage cupboards.
“The key focus of our training has been the development of knowledge and skills around post-harvest management and loss prevention so that lessons learned are effectively transferred to the workplace and disseminated amongst farmers. Through this training and supply of post-harvest management equipment, we have seen a significant growth in agricultural productivity among our partners,” says Queen L’ombaka, Techwin’s Head of Marketing.