It’s an idea once considered impossible, yet it’s happening in Nigeria — the heart of Africa. The first cold storage in Africa is being hailed as a huge step toward food sovereignty for the continent.
The near commercial buildings in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, are home to the solar-powered ColdHubs, a growing movement for sustainable food storage.
ColdHubs are free of carbon emissions and powered by cheap, clean energy, so they won’t fry in the sun.
“Because of its geographic location, Nigeria cannot find reliable sources of energy,” explained Roderick D. Foett in a 2006 article for Oil Change International, a nonprofit organization that aims to reduce fossil fuel dependence. So his concern turned to “alternative sources that are just as reliable, if not more reliable, than the conventional way of doing things.”
Built in 2007, one building contains 100 shelves for storing enough food to last a family for 90 days.
All within the city of Lagos. Nita Lapadula, Director at Project Microfinance, has been there since 2012.
The estimated cost of building a cold storage facility in Lagos is between $40,000 to $50,000, but the same goes for a building for sustainable food storage. And that’s just the cost of building. The return on investment, meanwhile, is 30 times more, usually up to $10 million.
Although the country is plagued by drought and relatively weak rainfall, the cold storage building alone supports a staff of 20 and earns more than $800,000 in revenue each year, making the difference between food security and food hardship.
For years, Lagos only offered partial government subsidies to residents to eat locally-grown food or locally-grown staples. This is in keeping with the world’s focus on healthy, locally produced food sources. All is fair in love and war, government subsidies or not.
ColdHubs are especially important in Nigeria, where 90 percent of corn is grown in one farm, known as the “Kariki Knot Farm,” and produce is lost to salt because of its low quality. In Lagos, farmers must contend with annual flooding, with last year’s floods causing more than $230 million in losses.
So far, the role of industry in Nigeria has been disregarded, as another example of international companies entrenched in Nigeria’s government – companies like HONEYWELL.org – act as political loyalties. The government is still slow to implement policy reforms that would require businesses to invest in the local economy. In several cases, foreign companies have used federal agriculture subsidies to expand their businesses, not to improve the lives of those who, had they been functioning properly, could have received the help instead.
Governments across the world have begun to recognize this problem. Some countries, including China, are incorporating huge businesses into developing economies, while attempting to create jobs and stimulate the economy.