Are Cold hubs The Solution To Africa’s Huge Food Wastage? Find Out

A cold hub with solar panels installed
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Did you know that if food wastage was a country it would be the third largest greenhouse emitter after China and the United States? Well, according to the World Resource Institute, about one third of food produced in the world goes to waste per year. In Africa, the situation is not better either since 37% of all the food produced is wasted. So, are cold hubs the ultimate solution to Africa’s huge food wastage?

Assorted farm products being prepared for storage in the cold hub (Photo credit: / website)

Why does food loss occur in Africa?

In a continent where lack of food is rampant, it is hard to understand why there can be food wastage. Dysfunctional distribution channels and poor infrastructure play a big role in the huge losses experienced in Africa. It is shocking that in some instances as much as half of the farm produce never gets to the market.

Difference in production of food waste in developing versus developed countries?

After knowing how food is wasted in developing countries, you may be wondering how and why it happens in developed countries. In actual sense, both the developing and developed countries waste almost an equal amount of food albeit at different levels. In developing countries, food loss occurs after harvest and while on transit to the market. However, in developed countries, food is wasted at the retail and consumer stage.

How does food loss affect food security in Africa?

According to the World Food Programme report, over 100 million people across Africa faced hunger and starvation in 2020. This was due to crop failure mainly caused by climate change, pests and insects invasion, conflicts and wars, inflation, and effects of Covid-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, during the same period, food worth over $4 billion was lost post harvest. This amount exceeds the total humanitarian aid received in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of food in the past decade. Also, the total value of the lost food equates to the amount of cereals imported per year.

As always, the majority of the people who feel the effects of this food shortage are women and children. Therefore, the best strategy to deal with food scarcity in Africa and the world at large is to find ways of reducing food loss. This way, there will be enough food for all and a food secure and sustainable future.

Fresh tomatoes and other vegetables and fruits preserved in a cold hub room (Photo credit: / website)

What is the impact of food loss on the environment?

As we all know, food loss has a negative impact on the environment. Once food wastage occurs, a deficit is created which leads to clearing of more land for agriculture. This in turn ushers in deforestation and harmful intrusions into fragile ecosystems hence affecting the environment negatively. An increase in emission of greenhouse gas as well as extinction of endangered species is also experienced.

How solar powered cold storage systems are reducing food waste in Nigeria

A cold hub with solar panels installed (Photo credit: / website)

Africa and particularly sub-Saharan Africa receives a lot of sunlight in a day. That means that solar powered cold storage systems can go a long way in reducing food wastage. A cold hub is a cold storage room with storage sections that can be customized as per the customers needs. It uses off-grid solar power from solar panels installed on the roof of the storage unit.

Cold hubs reduce the effects of excessive heat which plays a major role in spoiling food after harvest. Solar technology in this case will lead to an increase in profits earned by farmers and retailers. Otherwise, they sell their produce at a quarter of their actual worth or end up with nothing at all.

It is this pressing challenge that led one Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, an MSc. in Cooperation and Development degree holder to research and try to find a solution to this menace. Ikegwuonu is also the Executive Director at Smallholders Foundation and Founder / CEO ColdHubs Ltd all based in Nigeria. After officially launching ColdHubs Ltd in 2015, he rolled up his sleeves and got to serious work.

Achievements so far

By 2020, ColdHubs had distributed 54 solar-powered 10-foot-square cold storage units across 22 states in Nigeria. Over 5,250 small farmers, wholesalers and retailers have used the cold rooms. More than 40,000 tons of food is stored in these units hence reducing food wasted in Nigeria per year before it reaches the consumers. The storage units can preserve fresh farm produce for almost a month. 

As a reward for his innovative and environmentally friendly solution, Ikegwuonu was named the joint winner of AYuTe Africa Challenge $1.5 million monetary award. This was a prize for upcoming young innovators who are creating ways of improving food production in Africa using technology. He is also the 2011 BMW Foundation Young Leader. Currently, Ikegwuonu is assisting farmers to conserve natural resources and decrease soil dilapidation. Doing so helps in improving their livelihoods.


With most African countries facing power connectivity challenges, cold hubs present the best solution in giving Africa a food secure future. Ikegwuonu and his team at ColdHubs are working on developing freezing technology which will still use solar power. With this advancement, the storage units will produce ice blocks which will assist in safe storage of flesh for instance fish. An added advantage is that with solar power, these units will always be operational since they will not depend on electricity.

In addition, these storage units will create more permanent and sustainable jobs for the youth and women. This will ensure employment equality in the Nigerian agricultural sector which supports 90% of all livelihoods in the rural areas.

While talking to CNN, Ikegwuonu had this to say.

 “We have been able to create about 66 new jobs for women. Many of these women have become empowered and change agents in their households and communities.”

His goals and dreams are big and wide and he seeks to provide a solution not only for his home country Nigeria, but also to other countries in the continent. He says,

“The big dream for us is to solve the problem of food spoilage in Nigeria, and expand our technology and service to other African countries that have these challenges.” 

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