India is an agricultural country. 70% of our agricultural lands are rain fed. Annually almost 25% of the agriculture produce is damaged due to a lack of drying and storage facilities. Together with the Indian Institute of Science, we have established a fuel dryer to dry vegetables and herbs.
This initiative is a value adding process for herbs. Due to erratic rainfall when the monsoon and harvest coincide, there is a huge loss of produce for farmers, because perishable produce such as greens, vegetables and fruits get damaged. But by drying these we can store them for the whole year. At the same time there are wild herbs like Usilai, Aavarai, drum stick leaves, curry leaves, Neem leaves, and Hibiscus leaves, flowers like Hibiscus, and Aavarampoo, in abundance. These greens and flowers are available in large quantities. These can be dried and kept for the whole year in the form of leaves or powdered leaves.
To a large extent, people over 55 years are unemployed in the village and they constitute 20% of the population. Hence by creating employment, they collect leaves and flowers and bring them to the farm. These are then fuel dried and marketed. This adds value to perishable agriculture produce. This generates employment opportunities for people over 55, and this is an initiative which falls under environmental conservation and social justice. This fuel dryer unit is functioning on the Kolunji Ecological Farm.