Monday, 26 April 2010

Fruits of the Nile expands into drying berry fruits

Fruits of the Nile (FON) are expanding into drying berry fruits thanks to a grant of £148,000 awarded for this purpose through DFID's FRICH (Food Retail Industry Challenge) initiative. Each year, Fruits of the Nile produces and exports around 120 tonnes of high-quality dried banana and pineapple from its factory in Njeru. They are keen to diversify the range of products their farmers can produce to reduce risk in the marketplace so branching out into a new high-value product such as berry fruits is a positive step.

Fruits of the Nile - 2008 Ashden Award winner

In 2009, the Ashden Awards, as part of its business support programme, funded a feasibility study exploring the options for diversifying FON’s products. The study’s findings identified specific fruit cultivars, production techniques and yields that FON will now produce in partnership with Garden Organic. In this new venture, the technology of choice for drying is solar, a technique which needs very little energy (or financial) inputs yet adds significant value to the product.

Fruits of the Nile - 2008 Ashden Award winner

Already the production of strawberries, blueberries, cape gooseberries and raspberries is underway. Farmers have just planted about 10,000 seedlings. Longer term, the ambition is to target organic cultivation methods with the berries. However, the profusion of bugs and pests in Uganda at the moment is making this a challenge!

Since winning an Ashden Award in 2008, Fruits of the Nile, with help from the award prize-money, has continued to develop. They have installed rainwater harvesting, certified new farmers and set up eleven new working groups with individuals affected by HIV/AIDS. A solar PV supply has even been installed to run computers and lights in the packing factory, enabling work to continue during power cuts.

Fruits of the Nile - 2008 Ashden Award winner

Not only are Fruits of the Nile showing determination in the face of a global recession, but they are reinforcing their commitment to sustainable energy use. Having a non-perishable product means they can freight their cargo using ships rather than planes. And, in the face of a continent halted by volcanic ash, this has proved to be a great option, saving the company from major disruptions in its recent deliveries!

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