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How Solar Power Could Help Prevent Food Waste in Africa

29 Dec 13:00 by Steve Walia

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Food waste isn't just an issue that affects the West - it's a serious problem in Africa too, where half of all fresh produce goes to waste because it can't be stored. Staple foods such as tubers, fruits, roots, vegetables and cereals are often wasted after harvest because of varied power supplies. The UN has estimated that this wasted food would be sufficient to feed 300 million Africans. 

However, a Nigerian entrepreneur is hoping to solve the problem using solar power. Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu already has a long career in farming industry transformation at the age of 35, and now he is introducing solar-powered cold rooms of walk-in size which can help farmers to extend food life for up to three weeks. Nigeria has 90 million small-scale farmers currently without cold storage, and the country is West Africa's largest production belt for tomatoes.

Already, the new ColdHubs are appearing across the country, with roof-mounted solar panels and high-capacity storage batteries. The unit uses only 1kW of power, and the farmers pay an affordable daily storage fee per crate. The innovation has already resulted in an 80pc reduction in food loss, freeing up stock for sales.

Mr Ikegwouono has already received queries for the product from global buyers, but his focus is on developing countries and he plans to produce 20,000 ColdHubs in the next ten years. Thanks to their all-weather operation, the units can also run for up to three days without the need for sunlight, making them suitable for use in many different parts of the world.

Other developing projects in West Africa include a biomass dehydrator which can produced dried foods for eating or grinding and allow food to be stored for longer-term use.