Since our first lemongrass harvest in May, we have been focusing on piloting various techniques to improve efficiency and effectiveness of our harvesting and drying techniques. We realised during the May harvest that the cutting process was taking longer than necessary and that the drying method needed to be improved to reduce the chance of mould setting in.

Using some of the remaining (unharvested) plants, we piloted cutting techniques to try increase the speed with which a field could be harvested and to minimise the need for participating farmers to incur costs associated with labour wages. We are confident that this will reduce the workload and costs for our farmers in future.

We are also piloting alternative drying techniques to determine:

–          Ways of reducing the risk of mould

–          Ways of speeding up drying under different conditions

–          Ways of reducing the workload on farmers during the drying phase

We have four batches of experimental lemongrass currently being dried in different ways, with the aim of bringing the moisture content below 10% (a requirement of the buyers). Three batches of lemongrass are being hung in bundles under different conditions (in an open, roofed verandah, in a mud and thatch hut and in the school hall with cement floor and corrugated roofing). The fourth batch is being dried in specially designed ‘ovens’ in Cape Town (a more effective but significantly more expensive option).

Lemongrass drying in the school hall

Lemongrass drying on the verandah

As part of this process, we are monitoring weight loss per plant over time in order to determine likely dry yield per plant per annum. This information is essential for managing farmer expectations and for informing our business model going forward.

The drying lemongrass is regularly weighed to monitor weight loss during drying (note World Cup Soccer fever infiltrating here!)

Many thanks once again to OLD MUTUAL for making this project possible!