UK government commits to address the urgent lack of cold-chain in Africa with £4m research grant

African countries will receive £4 million in UK government funding to improve outdated and inefficient refrigeration capabilities and cold supply chains in a bid to support farmer productivity and tackle climate change.

The funding will be provided this summer to the United Nations Environment Programme, University of Birmingham, Government of Rwanda and fellow project partners as part of Defra’s £21 million Sustainable Cooling and Cold Chain Solutions programme.

Announcing the funding at a reception at 10 Downing Street on 20 April, UK Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey said: “This funding will help developing countries to play their part in tackling climate change and communities across the world with storing food and medicines more efficiently - as well as support farmers to increase their productivity.” 

In sub-Saharan Africa, small-holder farmers contribute 80 per cent of food produced. About 37 per cent of all food is lost between production and consumption, and almost 50 per cent of fruits and vegetables are lost mainly due to improper cold-chain management.

In sub-Saharan Africa, small-holder farmers contribute 80 per cent of food produced

In sub-Saharan Africa, small-holder farmers contribute 80 per cent of food produced

Following the Downing Street reception, officials from Rwanda’s Ministry of Environment reiterated the country’s commitment to the development of the Africa Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold-chain (ACES) headquarters in Kigali, which will be launched in late 2023.

Professor Toby Peters, Professor in Cold Economy at University of Birmingham and Heriot-Watt University is leading the collaboration of UK Universities supporting this work in Africa and India. He said: “Sustainable and equitable cooling and cold-chain is now more than ever critical infrastructure in a warming world. Food saved is as important as food produced.

“This programme for the first time delivers in an integrated approach that includes on-the-ground training and support for subsistence farmers and their communities, financeable business models and the network of skilled engineers needed to support equipment installation and maintenance. This work is underpinned by the evidence strategies required for the development of sustainable cold-chain and community cooling.”

Peters added: “In so doing, ACES can simultaneously deliver against multiple global challenges including mitigating climate change and environmental impacts of meeting new cooling demand; reduce food loss converting it into increased farmers’ incomes and food security and affordability for consumers and design the next generation of vaccine cold-chains that are efficient, resilient, responsive and sustainable.”

Alongside the UK funding commitments, the Government of Rwanda are overseeing the development of key 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 working together in collaboration with international academic and teaching partners and cooling industries to develop the Centre’s teaching and research programs to provide a pipeline of skills and expertise and innovation in cooling technology solutions, systems and models.

UK’s ACES funding is supporting the development of Specialised Outreach and Knowledge Establishments (SPOKEs) to disseminate knowledge and deployment of solutions throughout Africa – the first being in Kenya – as well as technical assistance to replicate the model in India in Telangana and Haryana.

An additional £1.2 million funding from Defra has been allocated to the project partners to further support the development of roadmaps and digital tools to help developing countries design the equitable and resilient and cost-efficient approaches, quantify the full economic environmental and societal impact as well as understand the policy landscape required to implement new approaches.