Rwanda is set to establish a ‘clean’ cooling centre, a project likely to improve the livelihood of some six million smallholder farmers – currently grappling with widespread poor post-harvest and handling practices.
Dubbed the African Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold Chain (ACES), the institution is designed to reduce food waste, boost profits for farmers and create jobs.
Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, the Minister for Environment, describes it as a climate-resilient project that seeks to reduce air pollution.
“Normally refrigeration and air-conditioning emit harmful gases into the atmosphere, but once the (clean) cooling practices are applied, those effects will be reduced,” she said.
The institution, set to be operational by June next year, is in line with the implementation of the Kigali amendment to the Montreal protocol – which is central to Rwanda climate change mitigation efforts.
Hosted by the University of Rwanda, the Centre also looks to improve cold-chains for vaccines and health, now recognised globally as a key challenge for Covid-19 immunisation.
According to Juliet Kabera, the Director-General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority, the Centre will help get farmers’ produce to market efficiently.
“There are a number of crops which become perishable because cooling and cold-chain processes are not applied to them effectively,” she said. “Some crops have to be stored for some time before being taken to the market.”
The centre will be located in Rubirizi, Kanombe Sector.
Rwanda has 53 cold rooms, which the Centre will help to become more efficient by improving their workers’ skills in refrigeration.
Established in partnership with the University of Birmingham and the UN Environment Programme’s United for Efficiency (UNEP U4E), the project will support Rwanda’s efforts to double agricultural exports by 2024/25.
It comes at the time the country is keen on bolstering its aquaculture and beef exports, both of which are temperature-sensitive products.
The centre will benefit the six million smallholder farmers. At least 73 per cent of Rwanda’s workforce is employed in agriculture.