For most households in and around Abuja, Dei-Dei Market, situated at an hour’s drive from Nigeria’s capital city, remains the first port of call for vegetables, cabbage, and the likes; which are vital for human nutrition and prevention of hunger (SDG 2).
For farmers who toil throughout the seasons to grow and bring these perishable items to the market, those involved in the agricultural value chain have always had to contend with the constant challenge of food spoilage.
Ibrahim Alhaji Adamu, a middle-aged man has been in the perishable farm produce business for twenty-eight years at the Dei-Dei Market. Over the years, he has always struggled with preserving his produce to avoid spoilage.
Adamu knows that selling his perishable products fast is key to making a profit on his investment. In a country with an erratic power supply, the relenting heat and humidity accelerate the decomposition of tomatoes, cabbages, and the like in no time.
As is the case for Nigeria, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has observed that in developing countries, food losses are often caused by a lack of access to energy for adequate post-harvesting operations, such as drying, storage and processing, as well as a lack of transportation and distribution storage.
It only took a farmer, innovator, and social entrepreneur in the person of Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu to study the problem and eventually come up with the ColdHubs concept.
ColdHubs hinges on extending the shelf life of perishable items from 2 to 21 days by using a “plug and play” modular, solar-powered walk-in cold room, for 24/7 off-grid storage and preservation of perishable foods.
The cooling system enables farmers and vegetable sellers who can now avail themselves the opportunity of hiring a space where they can store and keep food items fresh at an affordable daily fee of 100 Naira per crate (0.21 EUR), thus reducing post-harvest loss by 80%.
Despite the challenges facing entrepreneurs in Nigeria, Mr Ikegwuonu says “Policymakers should create funding windows for green innovations, that help the environment, that reduce green-house emissions should be the hallmark of interventions. This will allow young people to launch their ideas, using startup companies.”
Founded in 2015 in Owerri, ColdHubs has installed over 54 solar-powered walk-in cold rooms serving 5 250 farmers, retailers, and wholesalers across 30 sites in 20 states of Nigeria. According to Mr Ikegwuonu, the demand for ColdHubs services continues to rise and the enterprise looks forward to expanding its operations beyond the shores of Nigeria.
For the moment, plans are ongoing to open offices in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Ghana.
The ColdHubs initiative has created over 140 new jobs for women accompanied by a 50 per cent increase in customers’ income with an estimated 1 040 688 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide (Greenhouse Gas) prevented from being emitted into the atmosphere (SDG 7 & 13).
This article was prepared by the NCCRP’s Technical Assistance Team under Task 2: Dissemination of Climate Change knowledge.
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