The first part of the project, conducted by SUGECO’s Food Preservation and Processing Specialist, Kathleen Novelia, primarily focused on traditional preservation mechanisms, such as a natural charcoal fridge, home canning, and drying. Tomatoes of 4 different hues (including green, green-yellow, yellow and red), were washed and then collectively wrapped in 1-2 layers of newspaper, based on their colour category. The tomatoes, placed in a box, were then stored in a dark and dry storage room. The results? The tomatoes were successfully stored for 5 weeks, with minimal to no spoilage! Experimental research, based on tomatoes and other non-hardy produce, is vital to enhancing the shelf-life and product longevity of raw produce – an issue faced by many farmers and agri-entrepreneurs in Tanzania. To know more about the experimental research from the perspective of our volunteer, please visit this website.

Innovation, along with preservation is the focus of the next stage of the project. Ripe tomatoes were sliced, cut and then placed on the solar dryer for further processing. The result? Sun-dried tomatoes - nutrient-rich, yet tasty and with a longer shelf-life as compared to ripe tomatoes.

Next steps? Our current research surrounds the development of a fruit-jerky product that caters to the Tanzanian palate and is a nutritious, tasty snack. In order to further enhance this product, we have experimented with various textures and flavours, including drying tomatoes with and without the skin and seeds, as well as infusing dried tomatoes with garlic and herbs. Our hope is to develop and market such a tomato-based snack at the annual Nane Nane Agricultural fair, which will be hosted this year in Morogoro – from August 1st – August 10th 2017.

In 2017 we had two interns from the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), Koku, who is working on developing tomato and tamarind-based products such as and fruit-ketchup that will cater to the Tanzanian market; and Irene, who is researching on introducing beetroot jam in to the market.

SUGECO is working to limit food loss, as a result of produce spoilage, and promote inexpensive, environmentally-friendly and natural (due to no added preservatives, which may be detrimental to one’s health) age-old preservation techniques.