Kimmela: saving the cold that makes crops shine

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption This vitamin A tablet is at the heart of Nigeria’s efforts to prevent Vitamin A deficiency in children

You’ve packed your kids off to school, packed a warm coat, packed a warm meal and booked a babysitter or the daycare. You prepare to go out. And then the cold starts to set in.

Modern refrigerators and freezers barely work in parts of Africa, and the infant milk, rice and corn used by households is often old, poor quality and hyper-processed.

So malnutrition – a major public health threat – remains a huge problem across Nigeria.

Africa’s most populous country has some of the world’s worst rates of stunting in children – meaning their growth is stunted – and Vitamin A deficiency, especially in the fertile north, is an even greater problem.

Lack of food storage is seen as one of the biggest hurdles.

In Madarali in northern Nigeria, one of the poorest areas in the country, part of just that problem lies in providing enough freezing space.

The small market here – a stretch of dusty asphalt a few hundred metres long and about a metre wide – is cluttered with carts carrying foodstuffs that must go in the deep freezers.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption Kimmela is a self-sufficient horticultural project based in the village of Azemuilka. It uses a mixture of water, salt and vegetables that are brought in from the market

These freezers can hold only so much space and whenever the heat gets too intense, these pots of frozen herbs can fill up. But it is difficult to economise on refrigeration.

Freezers are often lying somewhere unused.

Sporadic electricity fails at all hours in northern Nigeria. Even if someone can power up the fridge, the AC fails regularly – and freezing, dark conditions are a real problem for freezing.

Kimmela is one solution to the problem of low storage. Established by the World Food Programme in the villages of Azemuilka and Coker, it combines solar power with an innovative seed system.

About half a tonne of different crops, including rice, sorghum, millet, potatoes and tomatoes, have been planted and began to take root once the electric power was back on.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption Cecilia helps the family. She is one of the experts helping people learn to use the Kimmela system

By keeping the crops that ripen in sunlight all year round, Kimmela also has reduced water use.

Once the seeds have been harvested, Kimmela offers a basket and water to anyone who wants it and steers them towards a free refrigerator – available for anyone who wants one – so that they can store fresh food until it is needed.

In Azemuilka, the vegetable sachets go into the fridge and Cecilia Kanana is keeping it warm.

Her husband is busy preparing a meal of fish and potatoes for a meal that is cooked several times a day.

Like other women in this part of Nigeria, she goes to the market with a sack of fresh meat and take the pan off it and put it in the fridge.

Hitherto, the meat would be ready at the first chance she had.

Not anymore.

Cecilia – and many of the women in this area – have all now learnt to use the Kimmela system – and they are getting really good at using it.

With less wasted cold space in their homes, there is less chance of giving up on the system for lack of freezers.

Expert view

“We know we need refrigeration systems that can store fruit and vegetables because, having one, the better that, is that you can take those fruits with you to the market with you,” says Esther Otoo, a World Food Programme development officer in Nigeria, and one of the women involved in Kimmela.

Ms Otoo is aghast at some of the refrigeration equipment that does not work in Nigeria.

“Some machines that would give you just 25 or 30 litre space are now working [here]. We need one that will give you 75 litres or 120 litres space. We don’t have that in Nigeria,” she said.

And the project has not stopped at just storing food.

Ms Otoo says the vegetable cartons on the market will also soon be used for many other things. They could be used to preserve all kinds of fruit and vegetables, such as mangoes, oranges and potatoes.

She said Kimmela has already seen a shift in behaviour. People used to be lazy and just drink what the cold shelves gave them, but now they know that the service is worth it.

Now that a fridge is able to keep food good for a good

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