From Transkei to Tea bags

The pictures below tell the story of our first lemongrass harvest, four months after planting.

Harvesting was a team effort

...and a family affair

Co-operative members working together

Drying and sorting the lemongrass by hand

Recording weights of each farmer’s contribution

Loading the lemongrass into the BI car

Our first delivery: Grown, harvested, dried, bundled, packed and labeled by the Zizamele Co-operative!

We have successfully completed our first delivery of our first harvest, but it was not without substantial challenges!

Our biggest concern was that mould might set in before the newly harvested crop was sufficiently dry. The first few days of drying went well, but when the weather changed, the dreaded mould set in. In an effort to save the crop, we immediately packed the lemongrass in the BI bakkie and trailer and transported the grass to the less humid conditions of Cape Town. Here the lemongrass was unpacked and laid out to dry in a large warehouse. After four days of drying in Cape Town, we sorted and re-bundled the lemongrass and packed and labelled 250 kg for delivery. Laboratory tests revealed that the moisture levels in the lemongrass were still too high, and the crop has been laid out to dry further.

All in all, we have learnt so much from this first harvesting process. The farmers managed the cutting, sorting, bundling and packaging very well. The one variable however which is out of our control is the weather! Humid conditions or rain can ruin a crop of harvested lemongrass overnight and we need to take measures to ensure that we protect ourselves against this possibility in future.

Options include:

(1) Building a drying facility in the village – which would be used for the lemongrass and for other herbs and botanicals that we are going to be producing. The cost of the facility would obviously be an issue, but the farmers would be able to dry their own lemongrass without having to cover the costs of extra labour.

(2) Immediately transporting the newly harvested crop to a drying facility off-site. This would significantly reduce the risks to the farmers but would also reduce their profit because of higher transporting costs (wet lemongrass weighs much more than dry lemongrass) and because of labour costs off-site.

We are researching these options, to ensure that we in a position to dry our full crop of lemongrass for the next harvest.

In the meantime, within days of being cut, the newly-harvested lemongrass fields were already showing signs of impressive growth!

New growth towards our next harvest

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