How to extend fruit’s shelf life without refrigeration

Sunday May 09 2021
Fruits pic

Araika Mkulo (left) during a recent WFP-X showcase in Dar es Salaam. Right is World Food Programme Tanzania Country Director and Representative Sarah Gordon-Gibson. PHOTO | CITIZEN CORRESPONDENT

By Josephine Christopher

Dar es Salaam. Ever wondered how you can keep your fruits and vegetables fresh without refrigeration? With the uncertainty of power supply that comes as a perk for being a city dweller, a few drops of local tree sap can be a solution to the problem.

Designed by local innovator Araika Mkulo the solution is sourced from Acacia tree and can be used to extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables which cannot survive the room temperature without the help of a refrigerator.

“We source the gum from the Acacia tree which are indigenous here in Tanzania and we take it to the lab to change it into a liquid form and then we package it. All ingredients are safe to consume, naturally sourced and chemical free,” she said in an interview with The Citizen.

According to her, the normal shelf life of most fruits and vegetables is around five days including transportation time but the solution can extend the shelf life for up to 20 days.

Ms Mkulo said by extending the shelf life, her production prevents the quantity of organic waste generated in the city and also the energy used in households from the reduced refrigeration.

The solution would also mitigate the post-harvest losses of the food products as majority of Tanzanians do not own refrigerators. “It’s estimated that 18 to 32 percent of fruits and vegetables in Tanzania spoil before they get to a plate,” she said.

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For a price of just $1 (about Sh2,300), city residents can also decrease the costs of buying new produce with the longer shelf life.

With just an application of an edible fluid placed on food products, city residents can also address nutrition challenges that rose as a result of spoiled food products, as she plans to start distribution in the next three months.

“This solution will not only extend shelf life of the fruits and vegetables but also preserve their nutritional value. So, city residents can have that nutritious product for a longer period,” she said.

Ms Mkulo’s company (Forever Food) is among the five innovative ideas sponsored by the World Food Organization (WFP) Innovation Accelerator programme that aimed at addressing food security’s challenges in the urban areas. The programme dubbed WFP-X Moonshot Launchpad is set to find ways on how to ensure urban residents like those living in Dar es Salaam have access to affordable and nutritional food in the future.

From the organization’s projection, the Dar es Salaam residents are expected to increase by 59 percent in the next 10 years, making it crucial on finding solutions to food security.

Tanzania’s major city population will grow from 7 million to 12 million by 2030 according to WFP.

This rapid population growth creates new challenges to food security and nutrition in urban areas, as five million people may be unable to access the food that they need.

“Through this project, we might avoid food insecurity problems; we don’t have to wait for the problem, but we can address it now and avoid it in the future,” WFP Programme Policy Innovation Startup Advisor, Asia Sultan told the press in a recent showcase.

Other innovative ideas generated from the WFP-X programme to address the nutrition in urban places include Mama Lishe Poa which is a chain of street food vendors selling cheap meals to people through a loan scheme, and Mr Bins Gas which provide cooking gas from organic waste.

The others include Novex project which turn food waste into bacteria based protein fodder; and Next Meat which is an alternative meat made from the larvae of the black soldier fries.


Post-harvest losses in Tanzania

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) results from different research studies demonstrate that farmers in Tanzania lose up to 40 percent of the harvest through post-harvest losses (depending on the crop and geographical area).

This has in turn brought a negative impact on their income, livelihood and production incentives.

The estimates of loss for developing countries indicate a wide range of losses for specific crops such as tomatoes vary from 20 to 50 percent, yams from 10 to 60 percent; bananas from 20 to 80 percent and papaya from 40 to 100 percent.

FAO also estimated losses of roots and tubers to be 12 to 27 percent and for other fruits and vegetables range between 18 and 32 percent.

Moreover, a study conducted in Tanzania by Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in 2012, indicates the post-harvest losses for three major cereals as follows; maize 15.5 percent, paddy 10.7 percent and sorghum 12.5 percent.