14 July 2023
Growers and community leaders work to ensure fresh produce reaches domestic and international consumers in its best condition.
GROWERS and community leaders from across Rwanda are joining sustainable cooling experts to begin an innovative training programme that will kick-start roll-out of clean cold-chain systems in Africa.
Potato growers, along with community leaders and other farmers, will work with experts from the Africa Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold-chain (ACES) in the launch of its flagship training and knowledge building programme.
ACES team members from Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, UK and the Netherlands will travel to two different locations - Rubavu District to work with farmers and Karongi District to train fishers – as well as hosting workshops in Kigali with financiers, NGOs, policy-makers and farmers’ organizations.
ACES is a first-of-kind centre dedicated to sustainable cooling and cold-chain for food and health - accelerating deployment of sustainable end-to-end connectivity for food and health to protect quality and safety, minimise loss, and benefit communities.
Project lead Professor Toby Peters, Director, Centre for Sustainable Cooling at the University of Birmingham, said: “This training will enable Africa’s communities to discover and unlock their economic potential and build clean cold-chain services for resilient and sustainable development.
“Deploying the right sustainable technology can help to ensure that fresh produce reaches domestic and international consumers in its best condition, while reducing GHG emissions, preserving natural resources, and increasing fishers’ and farmers’ income.
“We aim to give farming and fisher communities the commercial and operational acumen to support deployment of cold-chain so they can enhance and protect their role in the local and global food value chain.”
Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) champions ACES and its Director General, Juliet Kabera commented: “Reducing food loss and waste is widely seen as an important way to reduce production costs, increase the food system's efficiency, improve food security and nutrition, and contribute towards environmental protection and sustainability. Food loss and waste reduction offer a suitable way of saving money and helping to feed the global community.
“We have a huge responsibility ahead of us to feed our communities not only in Rwanda but in Africa and the planet. To achieve this ambitious target, sustainable cooling, and cold chain solutions, business models around cold chain cannot be overlooked.”
ACES is also working with medical agencies to design the efficient and clean cold-chain for resilient access to vaccines to meet the future demands.
Dr Leyla Sayin, Head of Research for the Centre for Sustainable Cooling, who is leading the international team for the trip, commented: “Cold-chains are essential to reduce food loss, which is as high as 50% in many African countries. It also economically empowers small-holders, meets our global demand for safe and healthy and affordable food, and supports the distribution of vaccines and blood.
“More than 700 million people today still live in extreme poverty, with 79% living in rural communities and dependent on agricultural production from small land holdings. Integrated and clean cold-chains could increase their incomes up to five-fold.”
In Rwanda, as an example, food loss equates to 21% of its total land use, 16% of GHG emissions, and 12% loss to its annual Gross Domestic Product. The flagship training programme aims to provide communities with the knowledge around how to build and operate a financially sustainable cold-chain and community cooling hub.
ACES will undertake collaborative research, demonstrate and test new equipment, and develop knowledge and training programmes. The programmes focus on in-country capacity building and providing community-leaders with fundamental knowledge on refrigeration, cold-chain applications, cooling hub design and the underpinning business models in order to improve existing systems from a bottom-up approach, promote new businesses and increase sustainability and resilience of supply chains.
Academic partner institutions include the University of Birmingham – Centre for Sustainable Cooling; University of Rwanda, Kigali; Africa Centre for Technology Studies, Nairobi, Kenya; Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK; London South Bank University; Cranfield University, UK; and Wageningen University and Research, Netherlands. UNEP United for Efficiency, Rwanda Environment of Management Authority are also participating.
Backed by funding from the UK Government’s Department for Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra), ACES also supports and facilitates development of early-stage researchers and supervised PhD research programmes. Specialized Outreach and Knowledge Establishments (SPOKE) are being rolled-out to share knowledge, demonstrate technologies and build capacity other African markets - the first SPOKE is being developed in Kenya.
Working with its partners, ACES programmes delivered through the SPOKEs will:
• Enable communities to build key cold-chain and cooling services using sustainable technologies.
• Support development of a strong network of skilled refrigeration engineers - supporting the transition to climate-friendly refrigerants.
Total UK funding to date for the programme is more than £16M and, alongside ACES, includes funding to provide the technical assistance to support the development of two Centre of Excellences in India, working with the Governments of Telangana and Haryana.
Photo: David Mark