Lutheran World Relief responds to devastating floods in Nepal and India.

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A few degrees make a big difference for Nepal citrus farmers

We’ve probably all had this experience. You make a purchase of beautiful, fresh produce with every intention to use it at the peak of its glory. Then, some weeks later, after life has happened, you stumble upon your neglected piece of fruit or vegetable and realize that it’s been called home. Indeed, preserving fresh food is a challenge for many of us.

Citrus farmers in Nepal’s Nawalparasi District had a similar challenge. They grow small fruits that are locally called suntala and resemble mandarin oranges. The problem is, that everyone harvests at the same time. Simple supply and demand economics tell us that this means they won’t receive the best price for their fruit if they sell at that time. Without proper storage facilities – which most farmers didn’t have – the fruit would go bad and they wouldn’t be able to sell it at all.

For a sustainble solution to this problem, Lutheran World Relief and its local partner turned to what some of you may consider an old idea.

Zero-Energy Cold Storage

Together we helped farmers in the Nawalparasi District, as well as two other districts, build what are called Zero-Energy cold storage units. That sounds highly technical but the concept is pretty simple, and is based on the idea of a traditional cellar. (By the way, please leave a comment if you remember what a cellar is, and especially if you have personal experience with one – we have a friendly wager going on in our offices!)

Zero Energy cold storage unit

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The units are built so that the interior wall is actually a double wall. Between the two walls there is a layer of gravel and sand. The perimeter of the roof is lined with water pipes. When the water is turned on, it drips down into the sand, which retains the moisture and brings the temperature inside the building down by just a few degrees.

It’s this small temperature change that makes a big difference. Amazingly, fruit stored in Zero-Energy units stays fresh for additional three to five months, allowing farmers to sell it well after the harvest period, garnering more profit.

RS9499_SAHAMATI Vist 210

Zero Energy cold storage units are one part of an overall project that is helping 13 farmer groups in three districts in Nepal. Lalbahadar Saru (pictured above) takes part in our project. He’s been able to store some of his crops in the storage unit. He’s also received seedlings to plant, along with training on how to preserve the value of his fruit post-harvest and on marketing his fruit so that it sells for the best price.

So while you can’t go back and reclaim produce of the past, you can rest assured that your partnership with LWR is helping farmers to preserve crops, earn income and build better futures. That sort of makes it all better, yes?

Thank you for your support!

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  • Faye Bennett

    You asked for comments from people who have used cellars. On the farm where I grew up, we had no electricity until the year after we moved away. We canned a lot of food and kept it in the cellar, along with potatoes, onions, apples, etc. It was also handy as a shelter during storms, but as a younger child I found it scary to be there with the entrance closed. The cellar was totally underground.