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Evaluation of low-cost cooling options for leafy vegetables grown by smallholder farmers in Tanzania

Nenguwo, N., Afari-Sefa, V., Marealle, R.
Acta horticulturae 2017 no.1179 pp. 189-196
bags, color, electricity, farmers, green leafy vegetables, household income, ice, leaves, postharvest losses, raw vegetables, refrigeration, rural areas, shelf life, storage conditions, temperature, vegetable growing, weight loss, Tanzania
Vegetable production is an important activity for smallholder farmers in Tanzania as a viable source of household income and nutritious food. However, fresh vegetables are highly perishable, and have a short shelf-life unless kept in a cool environment. Mechanical refrigeration is recommended for cooling vegetables, but it is costly and requires a steady supply of electricity. Thus, it cannot be easily adopted by smallholders, especially those in rural areas without electricity. In this study, three alternative cooling methods were tested on amaranth and African nightshade: 1) zero-energy cool chamber (ZECC), 2) ice packs, and 3) ice packs in insulated bags. The use of a ZECC reduced weight loss effectively in amaranth, but not in African nightshade. The use of one to three ice packs per plastic crate lowered the leaf temperature and decreased the weight loss of African nightshade. The use of insulated bags enhanced the cooling effect, and resulted in further reduction of weight loss and retention of green color in amaranth. The results demonstrate that the low-cost cooling methods tested have great potential to reduce postharvest losses of vegetables caused by lack of proper storage conditions.