Nigeria - ColdHubs is supplying smallholder farmers with walk-in coldrooms using a pay-as-you-store model. This 100% solar-powered innovation is reducing food waste, increasing smallholder farmers' climate resilience, and empowering women retailers.
In Nigeria, 45% of food spoils due to a lack of cold storage, causing 93 million small farm owners to lose 25% of their annual income (1), threatening food security and already precarious livelihoods exacerbated by climate change. In addition, for smallholder farmers, the impossibility of extending the shelf life of products has also meant more pressure in securing regular sales and finding new markets, low negotiating and selling power, and the inability to rely on a regular cash flow to plan expenses and investments.
In 2015, ColdHubs launched a network of 100% solar-powered walk-in cold stations for 24/7 storage and preservation, offering a pay-as-you-store model and facilitating capacity building on post-harvest management.
“Before ColdHubs’ pay-as-you-store cold stations, farmers were begging buyers to buy their products before they went rotten. This meant very little negotiating power in fixing prices and no flexibility in scheduling sales and distribution, a situation that spiraled into food waste, fluctuating cash flows, and stagnation when it comes to business development and growth opportunities”, said Terrence Ovie Usibe, Chief Finance Officer, ColdHubs Limited.
Working in 58 hubs across Nigeria, ColdHubs has saved 2.4 tonnes of fruits and vegetables from spoilage, contributed to increasing the income of 6.317 farmers, retailers, and wholesalers, created 80+ jobs for women, and saved 2.4 tonnes of CO2, mitigating the impact of climate change already affecting the region.
“We could have never afforded the investment required to build and maintain a refrigerator. The current power grids also could not have secured power continuity. ColdHubs has changed the way we do business but also our outlook on the future. We no longer have to sell our milk out of fear, and instead, we can wait for when it is more profitable, knowing it is preserved in a safe place”, said Mrs Ramatu Addulla, a small farmer based in Yankaba Kano.
The opportunity to store perishable products including dairy and meats in refrigerated cold rooms distributed close to Nigerian farms clusters, aggregation centers, and outdoor food markets, has also resulted in a series of positive knock-on effects for Nigerian women farmers/retailers and their communities.
Less time and resources spent traveling daily to markets without the certainty of a just profit, has meant that women can now schedule their work in the fields and farms, fix prices, and plan sales, which can be weekly or monthly. A regular income has also meant the opportunity to plan investments, involve more women farmers, and enlarge farm clusters. For some families, less resource-intensive operations and a continuous cash flow have meant the opportunity to send girls to school, or support community members in starting up side businesses like repairing mobile phones that can in turn be used to improve sales and leverage online markets.
ColdHubs believes in investing in women and as such ColdHubs stations are managed at the local, regional, and headquarters level by a team of women covering different roles.
“We are committed to recruiting and training more women to work across the entire range of services provided by ColdHubs. We are regularly reaching out to local communities to raise awareness about job opportunities but also to tell women that they too can learn and benefit from working with technology”, said Terrence Ovie Usibe, Chief Finance Officer, ColdHubs Limited.
“I attended the post-harvest management training organized by ColdHubs. The Certificate I gained allowed me to access a small loan to support the growth of my dairy farm. Banks trust farmers who invest in their own education”, said Mrs. Bukola Oyenuga.
In a context already marked by climate change, 100% solar-powered energy, has also meant green energy continuity, and less dependence on diesel generators. In the past, the excess energy produced by the refrigerators’ solar panels has also been beneficial in supporting for example training for women, farmers, and retailers on how to access and use laptops.
As women begin to access technology and enter the workforce, their role in communities is also shifting towards more equal relationships and a stronger sense of self-agency.
ColdHubs is now working with farmers to provide services that cover the entire cold chain now including also cold logistics through cold trucks that have solved the issue of food waste (30-40%) previously generated through transports.
 Rockefeller Foundation; Food Waste and Spoilage Initiative 2014.