UK Govt. to Tackle Africa's Cold-Chain Shortage
The United Nations Environment Programme, University of Birmingham, Government of Rwanda, and other project partners will receive funding this summer as part of Defra's £21 million Sustainable Cooling and Cold Chain Solutions programme.
Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey announced the funding at a reception at No. 10 Downing Street on April 20th. She highlighted that this funding will aid developing countries in their efforts to address climate change, improve food and medicine storage efficiency globally, and support farmers in increasing productivity.
In sub-Saharan Africa, small-holder farmers account for 80% of food production. However, about 37% of all food is lost between production and consumption, with almost 50% of fruits and vegetables being lost due to inadequate cold-chain management.
Insufficient cold storage and refrigerated transportation in developing economies also contribute to over 1.5 million vaccine-preventable deaths annually. It is estimated that 25% of vaccines lose efficacy due to failures within the cold-chains, resulting in degraded effectiveness upon arrival at their destinations.
Following the Downing Street reception, officials from Rwanda's Ministry of Environment reaffirmed the country's commitment to establishing the Africa Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold-chain (ACES) headquarters in Kigali, set to be launched in late 2023.
Professor Toby Peters, an expert in Cold Economy from the University of Birmingham and Heriot-Watt University who is leading the collaboration of UK Universities in support of this initiative, emphasised the importance of sustainable and equitable cooling and cold-chain infrastructure in a warming world. He highlighted that this programme takes an integrated approach that includes on-the-ground training and support for subsistence farmers, financeable business models, and a network of skilled engineers for equipment installation and maintenance. This approach is underpinned by evidence-based strategies necessary for the development of sustainable cold-chain and community cooling.
Professor Peters further explained that ACES aims to simultaneously address multiple global challenges, such as mitigating climate change, reducing food loss to increase farmers' incomes and food security, and designing efficient, resilient, and sustainable vaccine cold-chains for the future.
In addition to the UK funding commitments, the Government of Rwanda is overseeing the development of essential campus infrastructure to support the Centre. The consortium of Rwanda and UK universities, including University of Birmingham, Heriot-Watt University, Cranfield University, and London South Bank University, are collaborating with international academic and teaching partners as well as cooling industries to develop the Centre's teaching and research programmes, which aim to provide skills, expertise, and innovation in cooling technology solutions, systems, and models.
The UK's ACES funding is also supporting the development of Specialised Outreach and Knowledge Establishments (SPOKEs) to disseminate knowledge and deploy solutions throughout Africa, with the first SPOKE being established in Kenya. Additionally, technical assistance will be provided to replicate the model in India, specifically in Telangana and Haryana, with an allocation of £1.2 million in additional funding from Defra.
This funding will also support the development of roadmaps and digital tools to assist developing countries in designing equitable, resilient, and cost-efficient approaches, quantifying the economic, environmental, and societal impact, and understanding the necessary policy landscape for implementing new approaches.
Source: University of Birmingham