“What water is to a tree, education is to poverty” – reads the motto for Baraa Primary School, located in the outskirts of Arusha, Tanzania. The school educates children from one of the most impoverished communities in the area. A survey by a medical team revealed that a major percentage of the students were undernourished, lacking vital nutrients and vitamins. The school authority came up with a unique solution – planting an organic vegetable garden on the school grounds, maintained by the students themselves. However, the problem prevailed in storing the fresh produce of fruits, vegetables and leafy greens. In an area where electricity is a luxury, keeping a refrigerator was out of the question. Inevitably, food was being wasted, even with persistent malnutrition.
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The solution came in 2015 through Wakati – a solar-powered innovation that performs effectively stores fresh produce for up to 10 days with zero power consumption. Designed by Arne Pauwels from Belgium, Wakati does not deploy any cooling process, rather it keeps the fruits and vegetables hydrated, powered by a compact 10 Watt solar panel.
The first-of-its-kind product, which seeks to solve food spoilage and wastage in countries plagued by the food crisis, has drawn inspiration from primitive sustainable coolers, where water played a major role in preserving the harvest for years, even centuries, reported Fast Company.
Remember the movie The Martian? The science-fiction showed stranded astronaut Mark Watney growing potatoes on a planet hostile to life, using some ingenious techniques. In reality, the preservation mechanism in a Wakati device works in a similar manner, where a humid microclimate is artificially simulated inside a small tent-like structure.
“I would try to preserve fruit and vegetables in a hot, extremely humid microclimate,” Wakati founder Arne Pauwels shared with Fast Company about how he conceptualised the invention. After a few rounds of experimentation, Pauwels came up with a medium-sized tent with a solar-powered evaporator installed inside it. The interior humidity from the evaporator keeps the produce fresh alongside saving water, using only one litre of water in a week. In addition, the system is antifungal and self-sterilising, negating the need for any manual intervention. One Wakati unit can preserve up to 200 kg of fruits and vegetables.
The working principle of Wakati, as described in their website, works in three distinct ways.
“1) Increasing the humidity to keep cell structure intact
2) Ozone sterilisation to reduce mould growth
3) Oxidising storage”
Several Wakati units have already been installed in rural interiors of developing nations like Tanzania, Haiti, Uganda and Afghanistan, which are enabling farmers to ensure a longer shelf life of their harvest of toil.
Efforts For Good take
Agriculture undoubtedly occupies predominance in a country like India, with tremendous population pressure. However, the absence of proper storage facilities leads to wastage of a whopping $14 billion worth of food every year, while 194 million Indians go to bed hungry, states a 2018 Reuters report. A system like Wakati can resolve farmers’ woes to a large extent, especially for those who travel for days to export their harvest from one town to another.
With the extension of the lockdown the crisis of migrant labourers and daily wagers has just grown bigger due to uncertainty and fear of future. In the migrant colonies, slums and for people in the villages hunger and desperation is building up day by day. This is high time we step up our efforts to support our people who are in dire need of food and hygiene essentials to survive the pandemic, Covid-19.
After the India-wide lockdown, a lot of jobless migrant workers are stuck in cities with hardly any resources while many started retreating back to their villages. With the loss of livelihoods, a large number of them are now struggling to support their families.
Goonj activated its pan India teams and a pan India network of partner organizations and volunteers in urban and rural India. This network, built over the last two decades, helps them learn from the ground, reach material quickly and review and adapt strategy periodically. Intensifying this network has helped Goonj reach and start work across 17produced states/UT in the last three weeks.
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Majority of the Covid-19 relief work by non profits right now is in the metros and cities but Goonj is the only non profit that is also simultaneously focusing on the people in the villages and the ones stuck on highways or somewhere.
Goonj is targeting daily wagers, migrants and other vulnerable groups, who even traditionally are left out like the disabled, sex workers, LGBTQ community.
“COVID-19 is a crisis, yes…But, it’s also an opportunity for us to build the society anew. Not ‘for’ the people…but, ‘with’ the people. And in the process, we will build ourselves too.” – Anshu Gupta, Founder-Director, Goonj.
Direct Monetary and Material Transfer
Wherever Goonj got the permission to open their centres for packing and disbursement of relief material kits, they are creating a kit consisting of 20-30 kgs material including dry rations, masks, sanitary pads and other hygiene material and reaching them to people, as per needs and as per regulations with all safety precautions. This kit will help a family survive for 30 days.
Information till 10th April 2020:
Distributed 15,100 ration kits reaching thousands of people
Reached 17,700 families
Supporting 12 community kitchen across India with 16,600kgs of ration
77,800 food packets provided to migrant laborers and daily wagers walking on the roads across the country.
Provided direct financial support to 32 organisations
In Goonj’s processing centers its trained team of women are making cloth face masks and cloth sanitary pads (MY-Pads), keeping all the precautions and with the permission and cooperation of the local authorities.
In this lock-down phase if you are facing any difficulty getting sanitary pads or you are running out of stock, here’s a detailed but very simple process of making Cloth Pads at home created by Goonj. “This is how we make Goonj MY Pads.” This is how our mothers and grandmothers turned their spare cloth into pads.
This disaster, unlike any other, is unprecedented in its scale and impact and that’s why we all must do our bit with Goonj to continue its relief work for millions of people in this still unfolding long-tailed disaster.