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Reducing Food Loss in Nigeria Through Solar-Dried Tomatoes

Lekan Tobe - Deputy Project Director, PYXERA Global
Renee Vuillaume — Program Officer, Global Knowledge Initiative
Source: Caroline Beaumont, Creative Commons

Nigeria is Africa’s second largest tomato producer. Approximately 200,000 farmers, mostly located in 12 states, grow more than 1.8 million metric tons of tomatoes every year. This isn’t enough to meet the annual in-country demand of approximately 2.3 million tons, and the supply is further affected by 40-50% of the harvest that never reaches a market. Those that make it are subject to market volatility: prices often plummet during the harvest glut. In 2016, prices actually rose 200-500% due to a national infestation of Tuta absoluta, a tomato leaf-mining moth which caused a major scarcity in its supply. The challenge is further made complex by the absence of processing facilities which could have addressed the market glut.

Drying is the oldest preservation technique used for agricultural products. It provides an excellent way to preserve nutritional content and reduce weight and volume for storage and transport. Traditionally in Nigeria, farmers have dried excess or damaged tomatoes in small batches in the open sun on mats, rock surfaces, mud roofs or bare grounds. Smallholder tomato farmers resort to sun drying to salvage part of their farm income when there is a harvest glut. The process of sun drying can be slow and result in contamination and bacterial growth. The volatile supply and strong demand for tomatoes in Nigeria serve as a great catalyst for innovation. PYXERA Global, the YieldWise Implementing Partner, invited the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI), the YieldWise Innovation Partner, to support their exploration of tomato drying innovations as a means to reduce loss, establish an alternative to the volatile fresh market, stabilize smallholder farmer income, and, ultimately, build a more resilient tomato value chain.

The following report presents Innovation Scan findings on the innovation request presented by PYXERA Global: How might we best support Nigerian smallholder farmers who want to dry tomatoes as a secondary market opportunity? In Phase I of this scan, GKI investigated possible innovation options and key decision-making considerations. In Phase II, GKI used feedback from PYXERA Global to explore specific drying technologies that carry the most potential for adoption by smallholder farmers and fit with PYXERA Global’s ongoing YieldWise efforts.

Since the conclusion of the Innovation Scan in December 2016, PYXERA Global used this report to inform its workplan for selecting a market buyer of dried tomatoes and solar-drying technology providers, as well as a strategy for technology deployment to smallholder farmers. PYXERA Global first successfully identified a buyer who will export dried tomatoes to the United States. GKI then connected PYXERA Global with the tomato drying innovators profiled in this report. PYXERA Global is currently assessing the ideal match between a technology and the buyer’s specifications, as well as Nigerian tomato farmers’ incentives and intentions. Apart from the potential for export, PYXERA Global is also identifying and connecting farmers with local buyers of dried tomatoes.

In its role as the YieldWise Innovation Partner, GKI helps Implementing Partners improve their effectiveness and impact through innovation. In addition to scanning for innovations with the potential to reduce food loss, GKI works with Implementing Partners to address their innovation capacity building goals. This effort builds on recent collaboration with The Rockefeller Foundation on the post-harvest food loss challenge: GKI served as the Social Innovation Lab for the Foundation’s Food Waste and Spoilage Initiative in 2013-15.

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