An early prototype of the Orenda dehydrator was brought to the Kamuli District of Uganda the summer of 2015. We tested the prototypes in the field and for functionality and cultural acceptance. Elise had the opportunity to work with women attending the Nakanyonyi Nutrition Center through the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods. This nutrition center helps hundreds of women and children improve their health. Through feeding and education programs, women have access to health education classes and nutritional meals for their children.
The women of Kamuli currently dehydrated potatoes, lentils, and various other vegetables. The process was done outside either on tarps or the dirt. This process was incredibly inefficient and took days or even weeks for certain produce to fully dry. In the open air, women estimated over half their yields were wasted due to pests and weather. Limited resources prevented the women from preserving yields and accessing food year-round.
Dehydrated fruits, vegetables, and other produce sell at a much higher prices at local the markets. Having access to an Orenda would allow women to preserve more produce and receive a higher price in town. Storage was almost non-existent for a majority of the women which caused a huge proportion of their yields to spoil. Mylar lined storage would allow women to keep their dehydrated foods for months longer than before.
The warm and sunny climate increased the productivity of the Orenda prototype's natural convection system. Mangoes dehydrated at half the time as our previous tests in Iowa. We also had the opportunity to test lentils which we had previously not dehydrated. These were commonly dried by women in Kamuli, and when using the Orenda prototype the lentils took half the time to dehydrate in comparison to open air drying.
In the summer of 2015 KinoSol acquired its first partnership with the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods. Then, a summer later, we had expanded our reach to Kyosiga Kyokungura One Voice Campaign (KKOVC). This organization provides training services in modern farming, works to prevent post-harvest loss for small-holder farmers, promotes entrepreneurship, and works to conserve the environment and agribusinesses in the area.
Ella was able to spend a portion of her summer in 2016 introducing the new Orenda dehydrators to members of the KKOVC program. The women were particularly worried about the malnutrition rates in their communities due to lack of nutrient dense food between harvest periods. When there wasn’t fresh food on the trees or in their garden, they would eat sorghum or grains that were cooked into a porridge. While these foods are calorically dense, they lacked basic micro-nutrients that are essential for the development of a human brain and body.
In Uganda, grains are dehydrated on tarps that are laid out under the sun, leaving precious food susceptible to contamination by rain, insects, and livestock. Due to these conditions, fresh produce such as bananas and mangoes are not dehydrated. If you were to traditionally dehydrate bananas in the same way you dehydrate grains, sliced bananas would be covered in insects within minutes. Because they had no way to preserve fruits and vegetables, what couldn’t be eaten was left to rot under the tree. When the trees were ripe with fruit, the children would race each other to gobble up as much mangoes as possible. The delicious taste of a fresh mango was a sweet treat that only came for a few weeks out of the year.
KinoSol technology has opened the door to dehydrating new types of food rich in nutrients.
After demonstrations and questions were answered, KKOVC and Ella headed for Rukungiri, Uganda where the second field-testing Orenda was being used.
There, a similar tutorial and question and answer period was held with around 30 farmers, both male and female. This region of Uganda specializes in growing sorghum and farmers were very interested to see how the Orenda would work with their staple crop. Interestingly enough, the farmers were using the Orenda as a means to dehydrate potatoes and then frying the dehydrated potatoes weeks later to make “chips,” or what we call french fries.
Ella’s time in Uganda served as a way for the team to know how to improve upon user instructions, and implementation of the technology into the field. With each new partner and field-test, we are able expand on the KinoSol mission and learn from unique and inspiring individuals around the world.