SAMOA FRUIT DRYING PROJECT DESIGNED TO BOOST WOMEN IN BUSINESS

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By Rean Monfils

APIA, Samoa (November 14, 2000 - Samoa Observer/PINA Nius Online)---At a recent demonstration of fruit drying, the National Council of Women (NCW) was represented by the presidents of village branches from throughout Savai‘i and Upolu.

The Nafanua Horticultural Center played host to about twenty women from the council, who attended the workshop to learn about the workings of a fruit-drying machine.

The Salvation Army sponsored the workshop in preparation for the World Day of Prayer in 2001, when Samoa will be the country of focus.

The goal is to encourage women from different villages to bring their fruit into one of two depots within Apia, which will have the appropriate fruit drying equipment available.

Peggy Dunlop, from the National Council of Women, explained that one depots would be at the National Council of Women and they hope to set up another at the Anglican Girl Guides headquarters.

By bringing their fruit to these depots, the women can either sell their surplus or dry the fruit themselves for later selling.

Ms. Dunlop pointed out that the project is aimed at generating income for women.

Peter Rutledge, a consultant for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries and Meteorological Services, provided a demonstration on the use of the food dryer.

He went through the procedure step by step, from the cutting up of the fruit, to placing it into the dryer and packaging the final product in airtight containers. From bananas and papaya to jackfruit, all these fruits can be dried.

"The sweeter the banana the better the taste," Mr. Rutledge stressed to the women.

Dried fruit was passed around for tasting and all were delighted with the exquisite flavors.

Mr. Rutledge noted that the dried fruit may darken and become moldy over time.

"Do not eat moldy, dried fruit," he stressed. "Make sure your fruit is placed in an airtight container to prolong its life."

Another issue that was emphasized was the importance of hygiene when handling food, especially food that is intended for commercial sale.

The President of the National Council of Women, Masiofo Mele Mataafa, gave a thank you speech at the end of the presentation.

After the workshop, Digby Gotts from the United Nations Development Programme, which funded the MAFFM Fruit Tree Project, explained to the Samoa Observer that for some women it could be very difficult to come all the way into Apia to dry their fruit.

It is for this reason that they are experimenting with a solar powered dryer. The idea is to use corrugated iron, paint it black, put plastic or glass over the top and then seal it with silicon glue.

As the heat is drawn to the iron sheet, it is pulled up into the drying box, because warm air rises into the drying compartment.

Currently, they have only been able to attain a temperature of 48 degrees Celsius when the minimum temperature for drying should be 55 degrees Celsius.

The problem, Mr. Gotts explained, is that the humidity in Samoa makes it difficult for the fruit to dry properly.

The next stage is to use glass instead of plastic over the top of the corrugated iron, to see if this generates more heat.

The ultimate goal is to have a solar-powered drying box set-up in the villages, one which is not too expensive but still provides the women with a way of earning income from their fruit.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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