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Tanzania’s Tomato Harvest Goes to Waste: Solar-powered Cold Storage could be a Sustainable Solution



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By Evodius Waziri Rutta

Feeding Africa’s growing population is a big development challenge for governments, policy makers and agriculture experts. Adding to the challenge is the high level of food loss and waste that most small-scale farmers experience.

The African Postharvest Losses Information System reports indicate that countries in Africa waste more than 30% of fresh fruits and vegetables through inefficient post-harvest management. The impact of this loss and waste is severe on smallholders who rely on farming for a living. The Rockefeller Foundation has warned that inefficient post-harvest infrastructure could cause millions of agriculture-dependent households in Africa to fall back into extreme poverty. The region urgently needs solutions to reduce food loss and waste.

Tanzania is one of the countries that experience this problem. The east African nation is an agriculture-based economy with small-scale farmers dominating the sector. Most small-scale farmers live in areas where access to electricity is limited. As a result, they don’t have cold storage facilities for their fresh vegetables and fruits. With a lack of cold storage, nearly 30% of fresh produce in Tanzania perish before they get to consumers. For fresh tomatoes, as much as 50% is lost before reaching markets due to poor storage conditions.

Recently, solar-powered cold storage facilities have emerged as a potential solution. These facilities are already benefiting thousands of farmers and traders in Nigeria. But they are not reaching many others across sub-Saharan Africa.

In my recent research, I examined what was holding back progress. Focusing on tomato farming in Kilolo district in south-east Tanzania, I spoke to farmers, solar energy experts and policy experts to explore what needs to be done to improve access to cold storage facilities. I found that the barriers to uptake were limited awareness, the cost of the technology, farmers’ low capacity to pay, and consumer preference for non-refrigerated food. Practical policy interventions would include incentives to attract investment, payment flexibility to make technology more affordable, and greater awareness of the benefits of cold storage.

What causes tomato losses

Tomato production has huge agribusiness potential in Tanzania. However, small-scale farmers are confronted with several post-harvest management challenges.

In my interactions with farmers, I noticed that most tomatoes got damaged soon after harvesting due to poor handling, lack of proper storage and the use of motorbikes to transport tomatoes from farms to distant wholesale markets.

Due to a lack of storage facilities, farmers without pre-orders kept their harvest in a shaded open space while waiting for buyers. Some reported treating matured tomatoes with chemicals to delay ripening while waiting for buyers. Or they simply delayed harvesting them. When the rain comes, most tomatoes get spoiled very quickly. As a result of all these factors, post-harvest tomato losses could be as high as 60%.

Solar-powered cold storage technology

Tanzania has made significant progress in increasing access to solar energy technologies for rural populations. About 70% of rural households use appliances powered by solar. But high investment costs remain the most significant barrier to uptake.

A solar expert told me a 40ft solar-powered cold storage facility could cost about US$20,000 to set up. Given that most small-scale farmers are low-income earners, such a facility is beyond their means. As a result of small market share and the significant upfront costs involved, solar companies have been reluctant to venture into the cold storage technology business, added this solar expert. The capital cost constraint is also linked to poor financing for renewable energy programmes. In several parts of Africa, including Tanzania, insufficient foreign direct investment for solar energy projects has been identified as a major impediment to market growth.

Solar-powered technologies are a clean energy solution with environmental benefits. But they are rarely promoted; marketing is poor. In Tanzania, my interactions with farmers and traders revealed that the vast majority of the potential market had no basic knowledge of solar-powered cold storage. They were interested in using the technology to minimise losses during harvest season. But they weren’t sure how it would affect their business earnings. They needed more information.

Farmers and traders also expressed concerns about whether their regular clients would be willing to buy chilled or refrigerated tomatoes. I was surprised to hear that this was a potential problem. According to these farmers, most consumers in Tanzania prefer freshly harvested tomatoes. One said:

Distant buyers from Dar es Salaam, Tanga, or Dodoma sometimes opt to come straight to the farm and pick the tomatoes they want; usually, they prefer and want you to harvest those that are in the green stage so that they don’t spoil during transportation. These kinds of buyers will not buy tomatoes that have been stored in cold storage facility.

Experts suggested that this concern could stem from limited exposure to chilled and frozen foods among local populations in Africa. Solar service providers would need to be aware of this market reality.

Overcoming barriers

Solar-powered cold storage technology is of prime significance in Africa’s efforts to cut post-harvest losses and attain food security, as outlined in the African Union Malabo Declaration. But costs and affordability make it very challenging for African-based solar service providers. Private sector participation will be needed to increase financing and investment for cold storage technologies in emerging markets such as Tanzania. This can only be realised under a supportive regulatory environment and innovative policy incentives that attract capital.

The good news is that in the last few years, private financing for renewable energy programs in developing countries has more than doubled. The opportunities are opening up for African-based solar companies and their potential market.

Evodius Waziri Rutta is a Sustainability Researcher, Queen’s University, Ontario

Courtesy: The Conversation

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The Great Tomato Debate: Fruit or Vegetable?




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Tomatoes are one of the most commonly used ingredients in the culinary world, yet there has been a long-standing debate regarding their classification as either a fruit or a vegetable. This debate has been ongoing for centuries, with no clear consensus being reached. In this article, we will explore the science behind this debate and try to unravel the mystery of whether tomatoes are a fruit or a vegetable.

Tomatoes are one of the most commonly used ingredients in the culinary world, yet there has been a long-standing debate regarding their classification as either a fruit or a vegetable. This debate has been ongoing for centuries, with no clear consensus being reached. In this article, we will explore the science behind this debate and try to unravel the mystery of whether tomatoes are a fruit or a vegetable.

The Great Tomato Debate: Fruit or Vegetable?

The Definition of a Fruit vs. a Vegetable

Before we dive into the tomato debate, let’s first define what constitutes a fruit versus a vegetable. Botanically speaking, a fruit is the mature ovary of a flowering plant, containing seeds. This means that any edible plant that contains seeds is a fruit. On the other hand, vegetables are typically defined as the edible parts of plants that do not contain seeds, such as leaves, stems, and roots.

The Botanical Perspective

When it comes to tomatoes, botanically speaking, they are classified as a fruit. This is because they contain seeds and are derived from the ovary of a flowering plant. Tomatoes belong to the same family as other fruits such as apples, oranges, and grapes.

However, the confusion arises because tomatoes are often used in savory dishes and are treated as a vegetable in culinary contexts. This is due to their mild flavor and their ability to be cooked and used in a wide range of dishes, from salads to sauces.

Seedy Secrets: Why Some Vegetables Are Technically Fruits

It’s a fascinating fact that many vegetables we consume, such as cucumbers, peppers, zucchini tomatoes, pumpkins, and other squash, contain seeds, yet they are not classified as fruits. The reason behind this lies in the botanical definition of fruits and vegetablesFruits are the mature ovaries of flowering plants that grow after fertilization and contain seeds that aid in reproduction. Vegetables, on the other hand, refer to any edible portion of a plant, including roots, leaves, stems, and even flowers. As a result, while being officially classed as fruits due to their seed-bearing nature, they are nonetheless considered vegetables based on their cultural and culinary usage. So, the next time you savor a juicy tomato or a crunchy bell pepper, keep in mind that despite their seedy secrets, they are still regarded as savory vegetables in the culinary world.

The Legal Perspective

The debate over whether tomatoes are a fruit or a vegetable has even made its way into the legal system. In 1893, the United States Supreme Court ruled that tomatoes should be classified as a vegetable for taxation. The decision was based on the fact that tomatoes were typically used in savory dishes and therefore should be considered a vegetable.

However, from a botanical perspective, the Supreme Court’s ruling was incorrect. This decision has led to a continued debate over whether tomatoes should be classified as a fruit or a vegetable in various contexts.

The Nutritional Perspective

Regardless of whether tomatoes are considered a fruit or a vegetable, they are a highly nutritious food. Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K. They also contain antioxidants, such as lycopene, which may help reduce the risk of certain diseases.

Tomatoes are also low in calories and high in fiber, making them a great food for those looking to maintain a healthy weight. Whether you choose to classify them as a fruit or a vegetable, there’s no denying that tomatoes are a nutritious addition to any diet.

Incorporating Tomatoes into Your Diet

Whether you prefer to classify tomatoes as a fruit or a vegetable, they are delicious. Tomatoes can be eaten raw in salads or sandwiches, or cooked in a wide range of dishes such as soups, stews, sauces, and more. With their bright color, juicy texture, and sweet, tangy flavor, tomatoes are a true culinary staple that can be enjoyed year-round.

While the great tomato debate may never be fully resolved, it’s clear that tomatoes are a versatile and nutritious food that can be enjoyed in a wide range of dishes. Botanically speaking, tomatoes are classified as a fruit, but they are often treated as a vegetable in culinary contexts. Regardless of their classification, tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and should be included in a healthy and balanced diet.

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The Triangulation of Entrepreneurialism with Women, Food Production and Technologies




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By Naseem Javed

A Grand Inquisition of Free Economies: Finally, why now, it is the best of times, for at least once, to have a bold global debate, nation-by-nation, critique, and evaluation on visible challenges, amongst the world’s free economies, a one time, a single grand inquisition;

Let loud strikes of the gavel, the anxious sounds of vibrant arguments, and public roars rise to the top of the rotundas; let the echoes bounce and awaken the woke, sleepy, or sloppy. Let there be trepidations in narratives, and let there be a shouting match.

Like a real-life drama unfolding, so critically needed at each national stage to harshly probe what types of power skills it takes to transform a nation’s struggling economy and uplift by tapping the hidden talents of the national citizenry, let it be a bold open discussion on a global stage.

The simple fact is that developed economies are visibly broken and need more answers, expertise, skills, and an agenda on the national mobilization of hidden talents. Wars are destructive on both sides, but each calls their side winning heads while both sides are, in fact, the losing tails. No matter what, the noise will get louder, and eventually, great solutions will be found.

Nevertheless, this narrative is very different for those seeking daily motivational sing-songs, as this is all about the economic wars on planning and national mobilization of entrepreneurialism which is a tactical battlefield of national-global commerce and a place for the economic warriors. Deep thinking with a somber presence of mind is essential.

The Triangulations: Agriculture + Entrepreneurialism + Women + SMEs + Technologies + Exportability 

The door is wide open, as global hunger for food as a prime necessity cannot be boxed into recessions, depressions, or inflations. Therefore mastery of uplifting the agro-technicality must prevail, from seeds to the table, logistical support to ensure perishable needs, and global fintech to make exportability a routine. All such challenges highlight two powerful forces of unique skills to succeed; Farming + Entrepreneurialism.

Worldwide, agro-industrialization and techno-automation is a monumental task. The triangulation of agriculture + entrepreneurialism + women + SMEs + technologies + exportability brings agro-rich nations suddenly emerge as new hidden economic powers. The actual conquest is by fertilizing agro-sectors juxtaposed with entrepreneurialism, blended with women’s power, well-defined, balanced, high potential, and skilled SMEs with re-skilling on exportability, when all skills match the entire organization and the agro-trade sectors.

Three advancements; First, The ultimate secrets of growth are hidden within the combined and balanced job seeker’s and job creator’s mindsets, as both are required to achieve balanced performances. Second, this is not just about the economy; it is far more interconnected, as the economy is just a naked ballerina tippy-toeing to dance by numbers on the national stage. This is about fully dressed parades from highly skilled and talented farmers and SME Entrepreneurs with high potential operations to handle exports and distribution to industrial packaging and processing.

Such skills are entrepreneurial job creators and SME creators; women will play a key role here, and some become grand entrepreneurs leading to large-scale operations. This is where the rise of the 1st industrial revolution of mind starts deciphering the business models, goals, and capabilities to expand outbound global exportability to dozens of countries.

When, like an open book, how the USA, from a century of gun-slinging, rose to become an entrepreneurial nation, where national growth was conceived, created, and executed by the entrepreneurs, for the entrepreneurs. The USA became the first agro-industrial giant country and later the only superpower to acquire mastery of creating widespread grassroots prosperity and a global industrial giant for the longest time. American women played the most significant part in this process.

Like poetry recitals, China, where owning a watch, bicycle, and sewing machine was the national dream just decades ago, made a brand new style of economic revolution and managed a billion-plus population with exemplary performance.

Behold India, promoted by the British throughout literature as the exotic land of snake-charmers and fakirs, is already cooking the next global club of billion-citizenry on industrial-technicality, where The Revolution of the 1st Industrial Mind “reconnects” the commerce of the world. There are no books yet written on such monstrosities of growth. In the next hundred new moons, as the wolves train the cubs under the moonlight, the BRICS and ‘population-rich-rich-nations,’ when combined, can suck the economic power of Western economies over lunch.

Silence, across the West, amongst the leading institutes and economists on the high-speed Entrepreneurialization of the Asian world not only points to the lack of special skills in mobilization but also displays fear of facing the upcoming realities with a generational gap stolen by poor education quality, the rise of the broken-culture, continuously vulgarized by weak and confused fancy-dressed politics. The grace period of recovery expired a decade ago, and today only urgent debates declared as national emergencies with specific solutions and mobilization programs are needed now as corrective measures to save the national economies.

The Missing Wheel of the National Economic Cart: Women’s power has been glorified in the West and showcased as equality quotas in selected spots considered a thriving success. The rest of the nations are in the dark ages regarding the Entrepreneurialization of women. On the global-agro-industrial-technocalamity:

Triangulation of entrepreneurialism with women + food production, and + technologies.

The audit and cross-examination; what is the difference between growing apples and inventing Apple the phone? They are more or less the same from the trade and commercialization point of view as products how you generate a top-quality product and organize a system to manage unlimited growth and distribution organization. Without entrepreneurialism, there is no innovative growth because the Apple phone would have taken another century to develop and the phone probably as a failed product on arrival—study Apple and Steve Jobs, plus 100 entrepreneurial projects that changed the world forever.

The original Silicon Valley of the USA was not a technology or a financial revolution but the mobilization of an entrepreneurial journey long before the term ‘IT’ became popular and ‘technology’ was conceptualized as worthy enough to trade in billions. The clusters of entrepreneurs with job-creator revolutionary mindsets and out-of-box thinkers emerged from their garages. They created previously unheard ideas and new languages, broke old systems, created new alternates, and changed the world forever. Some 100 other copycat sites still seek to imitate and copy the name for their glory.

Imagine if, within any large or small agro-power-nation, there existed a system to place 10% to 50% of high potential small and medium farmers and SMEs as national mobilization of Agro-Technocalamity, where they were on digital platforms of up-skilling and re-skilling and able to drive with the entrepreneurial supremacy and high-speed executions for the global goals and shake down the trees on successful exportability models.

Openly challenged and openly debated. Economic development without entrepreneurialism is economic destruction. There is no political power without economic power. There is no economic power without entrepreneurial power. There is no entrepreneurial power unless the mindset hypothesis is balanced. The mindset hypothesis creates a balance between the job seeker and job creator mindsets.

Study the women’s role in the economy in China, but not as someone regularly visiting local Chinatown for ‘chicken fried rice’ but claim expertise on the subject of China, mighty in size, history, and performance. The West was systematically goofed by the global events of the last century when every Western city inherited a local Chinatown. Even today, most Western citizens with ‘chicken fried rice’ certificates on the wall and a fortune cookie in their cubicle claim expertise in China.

Unable to compare the apples and oranges of economic growth and unable to decipher the levels of meritocracies or random public executions of top brass on corruption, all such lack of knowledge ends up to their disadvantage. Unless they visit and face the mammoth earth-shattering developments in China, now expanding in India, and eventually many other Asian nations, the story is untold. Unless they are open to cross-fertilization ideas, trepidations and competition fears are not the answers. Therefore, without understanding the prevalence of entrepreneurialism among women of the land, their growth, and their active role in the daily economic grind, this narrative calls for deep study.

For women to lead, agro sectors there are huge potentials. It is true to lead a women’s revolution, most often, does not require only a powerful woman. Still, a dedicated senior large team of men and women combined once dedicated to mobilizing 10% to 50% of the women and bringing them closer to all economic growth via entrepreneurialism fronts.

The Expothon narrative:  Henry Ford neither invented the tire nor the car engine; he created the Assembly line. Expothon neither created the SME nor the exportability. It began advanced thinking on ‘national mobilization of entrepreneurialism’ as a highly streamlined, 24x7x365 simultaneous synchronization of the most significant. Still, most ignored national assets, now, a decade later, are gaining global attention. Expothon has been sharing information weekly with some 2000 senior officials at the Cabinet level in around 100 countries for the last 50 -100 weeks. Mastery of new entrepreneurial economic thinking is a new revolution in SME Mobilization. A global high-level virtual event series will further advance the agenda; in planning are debates to clarify and table turnkey mobilization options in the coming months. Study more on Google.

Extreme customization of programs to fit the nation and culture, with high potential economic opportunities, with global trading to bring exportability and trading to new heights, is where all the problems are hidden. Unless there is starting point, nothing will be gained. The rest is easy.

COURTESY: Modern Diplomacy

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The Impact of India’s Rice-export Ban




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As India bans rice exports, global rice prices will soar, and poor countries are expected to bear the brunt

Few things frighten governments as much as hungry voters. In India, after heavy rains in early July wiped out paddy fields, officials acted to pre-empt an unpalatable increase in rice prices. On July 20th the government banned the export of non-basmati white rice to “ensure adequate domestic availability at reasonable prices”. Last year, for similar reasons, it slapped export duties on all types of rice and blocked exports of broken rice grains, which are sold cheaply. Policymakers hope that keeping more of the staple in India will drive down domestic prices, which have risen by nearly 12% over the past year. But what about the rest of the world?

India is the world’s biggest rice exporter, accounting for 40% of global trade by volume. In 2022, it shipped 22m tonnes to more than 140 countries. Around half of those shipments were of non-basmati rice. Those types, which are cheaper than the fragrant, long-grained basmati, are especially popular in poor places such as Bangladesh, Nepal and parts of sub-Saharan Africa. A reduction in its supply will drive up the prices these countries pay, according to rice traders.

As a result global rice prices, which were already rising, could reach record highs. The rice-price index published monthly by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, a un agency, rose by 14% in the year to June. It is at its highest since the food-price crisis of 2008. That is mostly because of climate-related supply concerns that have also pushed up the prices of other foods. Rice is especially vulnerable to El Niño, the weather pattern that brings hotter temperatures and drier conditions to Asia. In China heat and weak rainfall have reduced soil moisture in rice-growing regions to the lowest level in more than a decade, according to Gro Intelligence, a research firm. In anticipation of shortages, even big rice producers are stocking up. Vietnamese rice exports to China surged by more than 70%, and to Indonesia by almost 2,500% in the first four months of 2023.

Many of the countries that will be worst affected by the ban are already suffering soaring food costs. According to Gro, food prices in Benin, Africa’s biggest importer of rice, are 40% higher than in 2020. India insists that it will accommodate requests from countries to meet their food-security needs with broken rice. But such support will have to be the result of time-consuming diplomacy rather than market activity.

India’s export ban could disrupt the market further through contagion. In 2008 Vietnam banned rice exports, prompting India, China and Cambodia to follow suit. A study by the World Bank estimated that export restrictions in that period increased global rice prices by 52%. So far, following the announcement of India’s ban, Vietnam’s government has merely urged traders to ensure there is enough domestic supply. Should countries go further and follow India in imposing export restrictions, the effects could push prices even higher than in 2008.

Climate change will tempt governments to make these choices more often. Demand for rice is increasing as the global population rises, and as per-person consumption in Africa expands, spurred by greater urbanisation and economic growth. But yields are stagnating, in large part because of climate change, which is causing higher temperatures and more frequent extreme events, such as floods. Rice is the primary source of sustenance for nearly half the world. The more its supply is threatened, the stronger the temptation to restrict exports will become.

This article appeared in the The Economist explains section of the print edition under the headline “What will be the impact of India’s rice-export ban?

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