A grant agreement was signed between the Austrian Coordination Office for Development Cooperation (ACO) Thimphu and Lho Mon Society, Dewathang on January 29, 2016 at the ACO office, Thimphu. The grant, EUR 9790 is provided for the “Fabrication and Installation of Solar Drier in the Villages”. The project will be implemented by SJI, from January-October, 2016.
Fifty additional solar driers will be installed in Lauri, Serthi and Orong gewogs, benefiting about 2800 additional farmers. The driers will enhance community food security, nutrition, and self-reliance by extending the period in which farmers can feed themselves and reduce their costly dependence on market-bought imported food. A longer-term goal is to demonstrate more widely and visibly the benefits of this low-cost, ecologically friendly technology with a view to future wider dissemination in rural communities nationwide.
The resource pool of 16 carpenters Lauri and 4 trained women solar engineers from Lauri gewog, Centre of Appropriate Technology of Jigme Namgyel Engineering College (faculty and students), and agriculture extension officers will train the beneficiaries, particularly women, in the fabrication, maintenance, and repair of the driers.
Solar drier is SJI’s first appropriate technology project, initiated in early 2011 in partnership with Jigme Namgyel Engineering College (then a polytechnic). 6 rural women from Lauri Gewog were trained in Barefoot College, Rajasthan, India for 6 months in solar technology. Together with a faculty member of JNEC, they were also trained in solar drier fabrication, maintenance and repair in the Barli Development Institute for Rural Women in Madhya Pradesh, India. Ministry of Agriculture’s Post-Harvest Centre has tested, evaluated and improved the design.
The introduction of 28 solar driers has proved in the past four years to be an excellent intervention to address this food security issue for the beneficiary villages and communities because the wastage, poor quality, and lack of hygienic conditions in the prior open drying process has drastically reduced. The utility and efficiency of the low-cost solar driers, along with the high quality of the solar dried produce has now been proven.
Branding and marketing of the solar-dried produce will be coordinated with the Department of Agricultural Marketing & Cooperative and with possible facilitation from SJI’s long-term partners and contacts in India such as Navdanya, the Barli Development Institute for Rural Women in Madhya Pradesh, and the Organic Farming Association of India, all of which have helped SJI in training farmers in the best organic methods.