Students at Amrita Bhoomi are learning how to build and use solar dryers. These training workshops are being conducted by renewable energy technicians and activists Txell and Kartxi from Catalonia, Spain, who raised their own funds from the Catalan government to carry out these trainings. As members of the Anarchist and Feminist movements in Catalonia, they believe that knowledge should be shared freely for people’s wellbeing.
“We didn’t want to just come and build something, but actually teach how to do it with locally available materials so that our students can reproduce these models easily,” said Txell. “It’s important that such projects of mutual support and solidarity exist so that people’s movements have the ability to build some practical models for self-reliance in different areas like farming, energy and others. We want no borders, but want to build bridges,” she said.
Solar dryers have a number of uses for farmers and aid in the preservation of produce especially during times of surplus production. Farmers can dry vegetables, fruits, and herbs and turn these into interesting food products like dry fruits, herbal teas, dry ginger/garlic powder, sundried tomatoes, and so many others.
Consumption of dried fruits like papaya, mangoes are becoming popular among consumers, and farmers can tap into new markets where there is demand for such products. Importantly, farmers can also preserve foods for later consumption in their own homes. “I didn’t know it was possible to dry produce using direct sunlight so easily. I am excited to build this on my farm and try this out. It will cut food wastage too,” said Guruswamy, a local farmer from Chamrajnagar.
As there are serious power problems in the countryside- these dryers can help to reduce reliance on grid-based power and provide an autonomous source of energy.
Two workshops have been conducted so far- one for ten days, where a large dryer was constructed on Amrita Bhoomi’s campus, and another smaller two-day workshop where smaller portable dryers were made. The large dryer can dry up to 100 kilos of produce in 3 days’ time, while the portable ones can dry 15 kilos in the same time.
Students have come from across the state- some from as far away as north Karnataka- an overnight train ride away. There is a mix of urban and rural people. Two young women also joined, which was really appreciated and encouraged by Amrita Bhoomi. “We hope that more and more young women start doing such technical work which is considered to be men’s domain,” said Vasantha Kumari of Amrita Bhoomi.
“I am a teacher and came to this workshop so that I can teach my students to build these dryers. My students are young, around 16 years of age, and I want to teach them such constructive work. This workshop has given us seeds that will turn them into saplings in our hometowns,” said Ganesha, a teacher from Mysore.
Amrita Bhoomi youth interns have overseen the project and have created a “solar team” at the center. “We feel confident that we can replicate this model elsewhere. We want to continue this work and improve our skills more over time,” said Shambhu of Amrita Bhoomi.