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II. Introduction

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In addition to staple products, such as cereals' which are consumed in large quantities in Africa, other commodities, e.g. onions, tomatoes, tubers, spices and a great variety of other vegetables' plant products and fruits are widely used as food supplements.

These products are of great importance to human nutrition since they add to the staple diet minerals and vitamins which would otherwise be lacking. They also help to make the food more attractive visually and more appetising.

The products in question have a relatively high water content. Consequently they may deteriorate easily after harvest. Surveys carried out by FAO have shown that post-harvest losses vary from 30 to 50 percent in tropical areas, These surveys have also shown that the still widely used traditional sundrying techniques are the most appropriate and economical means of preservation of most of these commodities for lowincome consumers.

Progress in solar drying techniques has been made recently, especially in Asia and Latin America. The achievements in these regions have shown that refinement of traditional methods may improve the qualities of the dried products and reduce losses. Very recently temperate climate countries have succeeded in making important progress in the design of small and medium sized solar drying units. It was considered to be of particular great interest and urgency to make African countries acquainted with these achievements.

The objectives of the Expert consultation may be summarised as follows:

  1. To alert decision-making bodies (Ministries of Planning, Agriculture, Cooperation, etc.) to the necessity of intensifying the use of solar drying techniques' to show them how these techniques may contribute to self-sufficiency and to inform them about recent progress and the new perspectives that have arisen since 1980.
  2. To collect and exchange knowledge and experience acquired from small-scale drying in the countries represented at the meeting.
  3. To indicate methods of enhancing the efficiency of traditional drying techniques by modifying them in the light of recent results of applied research and pilot experiments conducted in rural areas, with a view to reducing losses and saving energy.
  4. To disseminate information on preparatory or related measures required for the improvement of hygiene and quality of the dried products.
  5. To outline the socio-economic and technical requirements for the establishment of small industrial drying units in rural areas for the purpose of enabling decision making bodies to formulate aid programmes.
  6. To include in the discussions comparisons of experiences from Asia, Europe the Middle East and Africa and to outline types of equipment commercially available.
  7. To promote exchange of views among African countries concerning existing ways of formulating recommendations and guidelines for future programmes.

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