The objective of this manual is to provide a general overview of the different possibilities existing in the area of fruit and vegetable processing. It is meant to serve as a support and as a guide to all the groups of individuals that are considering setting up small agroindustrial enterprises or cottage industries to tap the natural resources existing in their communities, which go to waste in large amounts all over Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in the rest of the world.
Given the size of this publication, it would be absolutely impossible to try to summarize all of the aspects related to the processing of fruits and vegetables, especially in a region so rich in different species as Latin America and the Caribbean. It was thus decided to single out the most important procedures characterizing the cottage industry activity or small industrial scale systems, without mentioning the processes that are less applicable to structures of this size, like freezing, for instance.
It should be borne in mind that this manual was conceived for low-income groups, which, in seeking a better future, have decided to take better advantage of the natural resources that are part of their daily life, that is, the resources to which they have access, and which may be easily obtained at a reasonable cost.
Being provided with readily available raw materials at a reasonable cost, they will thus be able to take up the challenge of undertaking activities in processes not always unfamiliar to them, whose general management, however, they will have to perfect to obtain products that may be safely used by their families and by other members of their community.
This document presents the experiences acquired over the years by many people in different communities all over the world.
They are living examples of what can happen when small groups of individuals strive to overcome their limitations.
The experiences collected here all have one aspect in common, which has undoubtedly been crucial to the success of the projects in question. In Africa, Central America, the Caribbean or Easter Island, rural women have almost always played the leading role in the programs. These women have given a decisive contribution to the development of their families and communities.
Cottage industries or small semi-industrial production enterprises may be set up in a given region to foster the development of small communities in Latin America and in the Caribbean. This manual aims to participate in such a development process, by providing the basic elements to technologically support the-projects, with a view to achieving the afore-mentioned goals.
Different aspects are presented in relation to the implementation of projects for the processing of tropical and subtropical fruits and vegetables, growing in a warm or cold temperate climate. Post-harvest conservation methods aimed at maintaining product quality in processing are explored, along with different facets of the technological processes employed in the processing and conservation of goods. Finally, several aspects related to the ultimate destination of the product are analyzed, including self-consumption and marketing.
Special emphasis has been placed on the analysis of the implementation of the facilities for the development of the projects, the infrastructure, equipment, processes, the need for basic services, the quality of the products, and the possibilities existing in terms of processing techniques.