Saturday, 13 October 2007

Another Compatible Technology at Work

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About this time every year, CTI volunteers Purnima and Bibek Ray return to Bibek's home town of Gohaldanga, West Bengal, India for approximately six months. There they are working to improve the social and economic welfare of the people in and around Gohaldanga. Part of the economic development program involves increasing the value of the potato harvest. In the past we have discussed the potato processing; in this article we report on storage opportunities.

In West Bengal, the potato harvest is large. However, due to the climatic conditions, much of the crop rots quickly before it can be eaten or processed. Purchase prices increase rapidly as the time from harvest extends. Thus, the farmers get a low value for their harvest, but business enterprises that can refrigerate or cold store the potatoes, get a higher price as time passes. Working on a CTI funded project, Bibek and Purnima have been developing, with the assistance of CTI engineers, Rustic Storage facilities for potatoes.

A Rustic Storage Unit is a brick walled, thatched roof building constructed over an open water reservoir.These Rustic Storage units, built by farmers themselves, use the concept of evaporative cooling to greatly reduce the temperature within the facility. Due to the reduced temperature, the storage life of the potato crop is greatly extended and the farmers can get a higher price for their crops.

Last year, around Gohaldanga, the potato crop was harvested in mid-February. Potatoes stored in the facility did not begin to spoil until late July. Potatoes used for sun dried chips and strings had to be processed about a month earlier. Because the good quality life cycle of the crop could be greatly extended, farmers will be able to significantly increase the value of their cash crop by as much as 300%.

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