A new type of solar dryers has been introduced to Liberia, using bamboo instead of wood. From April 18 through April 20, 2018, solar dryer specialist Saiwoe Y. Varpilah, rattan Specialist Edward N. Borsay and EnDev-Liberia staff : T. Jeke S. Fassuwu, Joseph Forte, Charles Ellis and Daniel Y. Partee have built two different models of solar dryers at the EnDev office in Congo Town: a Table and house or tank dryers with measurement 2m x 4m and 2m x 3m respectively. Anyone interested is invited to come and test use these dryers for agricultural produce.
Various models of solar dryers have been proved helpful for cocoa farmers in Liberia. They mostly used locally available wood, that is community members had to pay a power saw operator, as well as fuel and power saw chains and to provide trees that were cut down for the dryers. A key maintenance problem of these dryers is protection from termites. Choosing the widely available and fast growing material bamboo, along with rattan ropes, could reduce the costs for the dryers, save valuable trees and be more resistant against termites.
Challenges for bamboo dryer construction are the splitting of the bamboo in to various sizes, the transportation of bamboo to the construction site, the finding of the rattan and putting it into rope. The sharp edges of the bamboo can easily cut hands or plastic and has to be handled carefully, so that Saiwoe Varpilah recommends to make the edges of the bamboo smooth and use gloves and safety glasses as protection during construction
Both Saiwoe Varpilah and Daniel Y. Partee (EnDev) who have both experience with solar dryers in Lofa and Nimba, are convinced by the newly used material bamboo. They highlight that it costs less, uses locally available material and might last longer. However, it has yet to be seen if there are other insects that might damage the bamboo.
EnDev Liberia plans to further test bamboo dryers with an interested partner in Sierra Leone, also comparing the different models. Also, while solar dryers have been mainly used for cocoa in Liberia, EnDev is interested in exploring their potential for other agricultural produce such as vegetables, fruits, leaves. Anyone interested in trying drying with solar power is welcome to bring and dry their product of interest in the bamboo dryers at EnDev compound in Congotown backroad.
Table dryer with plastic roof removed Walk-in table model dryer Moringa leaves inside the dryer