Despite the significant economic development of Rwanda in the past 20 years, food insecurity and malnutrition continue to be a big challenge among rural Rwandan households, especially small scale farmers. Rwanda also hosts 150,000 Congolese and Burundian refugees, for whom income generation and food accessibility is a major challenge. Spoilage and waste of the food produced by refugee and Rwandan farmers decreases their chance to access better incomes while the members of their communities continue to face food insecurity.
The shelf life of many foods produced in Rwanda, like cassava, cassava and pumpkin leaves, and mushrooms, is very short (1-5 days for green vegetables and mushrooms). Due to the input time and energy of harvesting and preparation, up to 75% of cassava leaves get spoiled. During the dry season, deficits are observed affecting household food security because of higher commodity prices. Better preservation methods can help ensuring stable incomes and access to food in both communities throughout the year.
To reach this goal, ARC will increase collaboration between host-community members and refugees through the creation of food drying facilities managed by specifically trained cooperatives. Solar drying preserves foods from waste and spoilage more efficiently and effectively than most other techniques. It does not require a lot of equipment or technical knowledge, it uses free and renewable energy and it preserves many nutrients that are otherwise frequently lost during the packaging and preserving process. Increased access to solar drying facilities for farmers would go a long way in increasing family farmer incomes and stabilizing periods of economic uncertainty (i.e. ‘hunger seasons’). Furthermore, we see many advantages to dehydrated green vegetables and mushrooms, such as a conservation length that can reach up to 6 months, a preparation and cooking time reduced by half, and a decrease of 90% in their weight and volume, which facilitates transportation and storage (not to mention the health benefits of having access to healthy greens more year round).