In developing countries, approximately 50 percent of all horticultural products are lost or wasted before reaching the consumer – intensifying poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.In Nigeria, food spoilage affects an estimated 93 million smallholder farmers and supply chain actors. Reducing post-harvest loss is critical to improve the livelihoods, nutrition, and resiliency of farmers and communities. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) estimates that a 10 percent reduction in global food loss could result in an 11 percent decrease in hunger and a 4 percent decrease in child malnutrition worldwide. In Nigeria, a 35 percent reduction in post-harvest tomato loss alone would create a supply of vitamin A for up 1.1 million children per day. For Nigerian smallholders, this 50 percent loss of fruits and vegetables causes a 25 percent loss of their annual income.
The high rate of postharvest loss is due to a combination of factors, including lack of affordable cold storage, inadequate marketing and transportation systems, and lack of knowledge about proper harvesting and postharvest handling.Humidity, ambient temperatures, and poor handling cause fruit and vegetable to spoil. This is exacerbated by the absence of effective cold storage facilities at key points in the supply chain capable of operating with unreliable electricity. Without access to trainings and technical assistance, many farmers and produce handlers do not implement the best practices needed to maintain quality and prevent spoilage. This is compounded by inadequate marketing and transportation systems, which make it difficult for producers to bring their product to market, access reliable price and demand information, and communicate with vendors.
ColdHubs, established in 2015, designs,assembles, installs, commissions and operates 100 percent solar-powered walk-in cold rooms in outdoor markets and farm clusters across Nigeria. The rooms, or hubs, are designed to preserve perishable foods and are used by farmers, traders, and retailers to increase their product shelf life and value. ColdHubs currently operates eleven hubs, six at markets in southern Nigeria and five in northern Nigeria within smallholder farmers clusters. These eleven hubs serves 620 customers and have saved and estimated 11,400 tons of food from spoilage to date, resulting in customer income increase of approximately $60 per month.
We operate the hubs on a pay per use model. We charge farmers the equivalent of US$0.50 for each 20 kilogram crate of produce stored per day. This model – where customers rent only the space they need for the day – allows all farmers to access the technology at a price they can afford. On average, each hub stores 150 crates and serves 50 -100 customers per day, as customers store and withdraw their produce at different times. Each hub is managed by a full time hub manager, typically a woman from the local community. We train these women in basic business management and the managers are then responsible for monitoring inventory, collecting fees, and providing security. Additionally, these managers also play a key role in continued education of farmers, traders, and retailers about the importance of cold storage.
In addition to the hub managers, we employ a team of market promoters to build demand for our product. Before a hub even opens, the promoters are responsible for promoting the benefits of cold storage at the chosen hub site. The promoters develop relationships with market vendors or farmers and encourage them to attend ColdHubs sponsored postharvest loss trainings. We have found thisto be an effective customer outreach strategy that aids the flow of business at each hub. Typically, with the help of market promoters and hub managers, each hub reaches full capacity after 6 months of operation.