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Nigeria, Kenya horticulture farmers raise incomes 20% through cold storage

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Five thousand kilometers apart, Soko Fresh in Kenya and Colb Hubs in Nigeria, are using solar-powered cold stations to store and preserve horticultural produce. 

This is helping farmers in both countries reduce their post-harvest losses by over 80 per cent and increase their earnings by at least 20 per cent.

Though less highlighted, Africa’s fruit and vegetable post-harvest losses are almost double those in cereal crops. Both countries are estimated to lose as much as half of their horticultural produce mainly due to poor storage and handling practices. 

Post-harvest losses in Africa are estimated at four billion dollars annually by the World Bank. This exceeded the total value of food aid the continent received over the last decade.

Given the importance of horticulture products in providing critical nutrients for a balanced diet, this impacts the short and long-term nutrition and health of Africans. Consumption of spoilt vegetables and fruits also strains the continent’s already limited medical resources as well as reducing available manpower. 

These losses disproportionately affect the incomes of rural farmers, where poverty levels are highest and there is little access to appropriate cooling facilities. 

Soko Fresh- Kenya

Founded in 2019, Soko Fresh offers farm-level cold-storage services and market linkages to small and medium-scale rural farmers on a pay-as-you-go business model.

The company deploys mobile solar-powered coldrooms to remote areas of the country in a few days that can be rented for aggregation and storage by SMEs that work with outgrower farmers in rural Kenya or by farmer groups. As they aren’t connected to the grid, there are no extra maintenance costs from huge power bills.

One cold hub can store at least five metric tons of produce at 3-13°C and between 85% – 95% relative humidity. This ensures farmers’ harvests are kept fresh for at least 20 days.

The company works with over 7,000 smallholder farmers and has nine solar-powered hubs in Meru, Murang’a, Garissa, Kiambu Makueni, Tharaka Nithi, and Bomet counties.

Farmers are charged one shilling for every piece or kilogram of agriproduce that is stored.

By finding buyers—both domestic and external—through its market linkage platform, SokoFresh also eliminates middlemen increasing farmer income. 

Up to 50 per cent of Kenya’s agriculture export is wasted for failing to meet phytosanitary and cosmetic standards, often as a result of substandard storage conditions.

While small-scale farmers account for over 70 per cent of Kenya’s agricultural production, they bear the brunt of these losses due to a lack of cold-storage technologies that are available to large-scale producers. 

ColdHubs- Nigeria

Established in 2015, ColdHubs focuses on ensuring farmer produce is kept fresh in Nigeria’s sprawling markets as well as farms.

“Farmers place their produce in clean plastic crates, which are stacked inside cold rooms. This extends the freshness of fruits, vegetables, and other perishable food from two to about 21 days,” explained company founder and CEO Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu.

Through a pay-as-you-store subscription model farmers are charged $0.50 for each 20 kilogram plastic crate of fruits and vegetables refridgerated overnight.

The company currently operates 58 cold-room facilities in 28 states in the country each with a three-ton storage capacity.

With increased shelf life farmers are able to dictate when they sell their produce, massively boosting their incomes.

“I am not rushed into selling my produce when there is a glut for fear that they will rot. I can hold onto my tomatoes for a bit longer and wait for better prices,” said Victor Nwankwo, a vegetable farmer in Kano State.

An estimated 200,000 Nigerians die every year from food poisoning. A large chunk of this is driven by the consumption of cheap rotting tomatoes and perppers, popularly referred to as ‘esa’ used in in making soups.

ColdHubs:  +2349011461015 or +2349011695995


Soko Fresh: 020 2000154 / +254 733 22 11 33


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