Postharvest Storage

Post-Harvest Storage
Problem Statement: The hot and arid climate in Kandahar, Afghanistan makes it difficult for rural farmers to preserve fresh fruits and vegetables long enough so that they can transport and sell the produce at market.

Goal: Our group’s focus was centered around how to reduce food insecurity. Throughout our investigation, we have discovered multiple practices that will address this problem. Due to feasibility and cost effectiveness, we wish to promote the use of Evap Coolers, but we also hope to provide alternative solutions such as drying or the use of greenhouses, which will accomplish the same goals.

Kandahar Province [1] Local Market in Kandahar City [2]


  1. Agriculture and Animal Husbandry professionals make up 80% of the Afghan economy.
  2. Kandahar is one of the largest growers of fruits and vegetables in Afghanistan.
  3. Effective post-harvest handling of fruit has typically been drying in Afghanistan.
  4. In order to receive good prices at the local market and save the surplus, farmers could possibly use a more effective method of keeping fruits and vegetables fresher longer.


  1. In one fashion or another, Afghanistan has been at war for decades.
  2. It is also well known that farmers around all parts of the world are conservative in respect to agriculture.
  3. However, due to the instability of war, the Afghan farmers are even more conservative.
  4. A failed crop could mean the livelihood of an individual’s family in the form of starvation.
  5. This conservative paradigm is not favorable for new techniques in agriculture.


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Table 1: Kandahar Temperature Data [3]
As seen in the Table 1, on average, Kandahar has hot summers and cold winters.


  1. In general, there are no mechanical operations for planting or harvesting.
  2. Harvest of high value fruits and vegetables occurs from June through August [4].
  3. High value fruits and vegetables in Khandahar are as follows: (These fruits, at maximum, will last 2 weeks when left un-refrigerated. They are best kept at 41 degrees F and at around 90% to 95% humidity.)
    1. Melons
    2. Pomegranates
    3. Tomatoes
    4. Grapes
  4. Kandahar’s government is trying to help farmers and is attempting to push them to bring their crops to better markets for higher prices.

Melon farmer in Kandahar [5] International Airport in Kandahar

Technology: Evaporative CoolerUntitledit.jpg

Steps to Build an Evaporative Cooler:

  1. Create a structure using available materials such as vines, wood, metal, or hard plastics.
    • This structure does not have to be particularly elaborate.
    • The only requirement is that enough space is left in the center to store the fruit and vegetables for transport
  2. Drape burlap or any absorptive material over the entire structure.
  3. Using needle and thread, fasten the burlap to the structure.
    • Tape could also be used.
  4. Put produce in the clearing of the structure.
  5. Drench the entire structure with water.
  6. This technology will then be placed in the back of a moving vehicle headed to market

Where Evaporative Cooling Has Worked:

  1. Texas based company Port-a-Cooler is providing evaporative coolers to US Military in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait.
    • Reported to reduce air temperatures by 30 degrees on average.
  2. SWEEP (Southwest Energy Efficiency Project) is building evaporative cooler systems into newly constructed houses.
    • Reduces average energy costs from $200 to $30 in these houses.
  3. In 2002, a farmer from Sudan invented The Zeer Pot- a small evaporative cooler used for storing vegetables.
    • Cost less than $2 per pot.
    • Farmers who used The Zeer made an additional .25 to .30 cents on each sale.

Some Hard Facts:

  1. The evaporative cooler is essentially a wooden frame covered with burlap that has been immersed in water.
    • This technology has used in ancient China, Egypt, India and Iran and is presently used by campers.
  2. If all materials are purchased up front, total cost would be around $30.
    • Cost will vary depending on size of structure.
    • 10×10 piece of yard would cost $8.
    • Wood or other structure materials would cost $20.
    • Thread or tape would cost a total of $2.
    • However, recycled materials can hopefully be used to reduce costs.
  3. The principle of evaporative cooling is using water’s relatively high heat energy requirement for vaporization.
  4. In order for the cooling to be effective, sun must easily be able to access the water in the material used.
    • This is why a reflective material cannot be used.
    • Multiple layers of any given absorptive material can, however, be used.
  5. For every gallon of water evaporated to vapor, 8100 BTU’s are required from the ambient air[6].
  6. This energy removal from the ambient air results in helpful and large changes in temperature.
  7. As seen with most fruit and vegetables, when temperature increases, degradation of the fresh-cut product increases.
  8. Therefore, by lowering the temperature of the fruit and vegetables, the shelf life of the product will be extended.
  9. This technology can be used at a small farmers compound or in route to the local market to keep fruit cool.
  10. This technology will need to be implemented near a body of water or near a reliable source of water.
    • Kandahar is located near The Dahla Damn, has access to numerous canals and rivers, and has 4 working wells. Water is readily and freely available in this area.
    • Even those paying for utilities only pay $100 a month for water, electricity, gas, and garbage (Numbeo).
    • Farmers just need to fill up to buckets of water from one of the many rivers located in their community.
  11. During the hot summer months in India, the evaporative cooler is reported to maintain an inside temperature between 15 and 18 °C (59 and 65 °F) and a relative humidity of about 95%.


Dissemination Of Technology:

  1. This program will be based on established rural relationships between Afghans and American military or NGO organizations.
  2. The individuals disseminating this information will likely have to spend ample time with farmers to develop trust and see if the solution could potentially work.
  3. In no circumstance, shall the team enter a village uninvited.
    • In 2009, Texas A&M helped develop the kucchi livestock in Kandahar.
    • In 2009, Roots to Peace, in a project called Mines to Vines, helped Afghans export grapes.
    • In 2011, in a project called Accelerated Sustainable Agriculture Project, the USAID and other companies helped export apples to India from Afghanistan.
      • Specific villages were not identified in project reports by the above organizations
  4. In order to prove the effectiveness of technology to villagers, an experiment will be performed.
    • The team on the ground will set up an experiment for the rural farmers that will compare traditional methods and Evaporative Cooler.
    • This experiment will show how the use of appropriate technology improves the shelf life of produce when compared to traditional methods.
  5. If the Afghan farmer entertains the idea of trying the technique, the team will show them how to build, use and where to buy the materials for construction. In no circumstance, shall the team purchase equipment or materials for an Afghan farmer.
  6. If the Afghan farmer does not want to use the technology, the team will thank the farmer for his time and move to a new village if welcomed.

Feasibility Of Technology:

  • Vendors already use burlap to cover fruit on fruit stands.
  • Materials are low-cost and farmers should be willing to invest in this technology.
  • Easy to repair, not many materials.

Ways Food Insecurity Has Been Addressed and Why It Doesn’t Address Post-Harvest Issues:

Given the current dangers that exist in Kandahar, we understand that it would not be safe to send unarmed volunteers over to the area to implement the appropriate technology. So, we believe that teaching the local farmers how to build and use the evap-cooler will require that we send volunteers over with organizations that currently have established relationships with the farmers in Kandahar. This model of bringing the technology to Kandahar will require the following forms:

  • Those educated in the building, use, and maintenance of the evap-cooler will need to contact military personnel that plan to be deployed in Kandahar. The military personnel will be trained on the appropriate technology and take the knowledge with them to Kandahar upon deployment.
  • Another way to bring the technology to Kandahar will be through programs funded through the US government. One established organization that we believe would be a good platform is the USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development), which already has an agriculture program implemented in Afghanistan.
  • The IRD (International Relief and Development) represents a potential NGO that already has agricultural development efforts focused in Afghanistan.

Military Personnel in Kandahar

  • Agriculture Development for Afghanistan Pre-Deployment Training (ADAPT) currently promotes a version of this technology in their training.
    • Individuals who take the training are potential candidates to adopt this particular technology and implement it in Afghanistan.

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Concluding Statement: There is an opportunity to improve post harvest storage in Afghanistan and we have researched much about our technology and tried to identify and overcome many of the foreseeable problems. However, the only way we are actually going to know if this will help the farmers is to actually go to Kandahar and implement it.



Robert Sanchez: Fourth year Food Science major graduating this spring. He has experience in post-harvest technologies in the United States through two internships.
Cheyenne Jepsen: Third year Agriculture Business major.
Torie Raquel: Fourth year Business Administration major graduating in Spring 2013. She has studied abroad in Barcelona and has spent a lot of time traveling in Europe. In the future, she would like to visit South America and Southeast Asia.
Bri: Third year year Industrial Technology major.
Tyler: Fourth year Construction Management major.
Kayla: Second year business major with a psychology minor. She is an extremely involved student and aspires to use her community service experience to help out.
Elizabeth Peck: Third year Animal Science major and pre-veterinary student. She is an avid polo player and aspires to be an advocate for equine welfare in high performance sports.