Area of work:
Solar Freeze, a Kenyan-owned-and-run company, offers cooling for food and medicine in Kakuma refugee camp. Its sustainable and affordable service has supported health clinics and small businesses, and 100 women and young people have received free technical training.
Solar Freeze was founded in 2016, offering affordable and sustainable cooling to farmers in Eastern Kenya through solar-powered cold rooms. Two years later it began work in Kakuma refugee camp – a settlement of about 200,000 people, where access to clean and affordable energy is extremely limited.
This challenge is repeated in camps and communities around the world – for many of the planet’s 82 million displaced people, it makes using safe cookstoves, lamps, and mobile phones difficult or even impossible. Healthcare is also badly affected.
Solar Freeze has developed a business model tailored to the needs of camp residents, offering people affordable cooling through small solar-powered freezers, as well as technical training that helps them find jobs connected to renewable energy. Lack of access to skills and education is a huge barrier facing displaced people – worldwide, only 9% of adolescent refugees attend secondary school.
Cold storage for clinics and businesses
In Kakuma, freezers are offered on a pay-as-you-go model that makes them affordable to a wide range of customers. These include health centres, where they are used to store vaccines and treatments for conditions including coronavirus, yellow fever, measles. Dog bites are a daily, and potentially fatal, risk in the camp – now it is easier to provide rabies medication.
John Kibet Kaptoro, a laboratory technician at Kakuma Medical Center, explains that the clinic previous relied on generators that could run for a maximum of five hours a day. Now they have reliable and affordable cold storage. John adds: “an additional benefit is that we are able to use the solar power to read insurance cards, using the various card reader devices. This has ensured that we carry on smoothly with treating patients.”
Freezers are also sold to small shops that use them to store food and drinks. Customers pay $1.20 a day, eventually owning their freezer outright after 18 to 24 months. The appliance can then be used as collateral to help people borrow for other important purchases. When coronavirus restrictions allow, marketing is done through product demonstrations and working with women’s groups.
Free training promotes gender equality – and brings Fahamu his first job
In farming areas and among refugee communities, Solar Freeze runs an ‘Each One Teach One’ initiative to train young people 18 to 29, especially women. This has taught 100 people to install and maintain freezers and other solar equipment and technology, and also covers skills such as sales.
The training is free and lasts three to four months. Solar Freeze recruits some of the trainees as short-term workers. Others work with solar companies as technicians, sales agents or in other roles, or even start their own business. Past trainees include refugee Sakina Kariba. She says: “I liked it because they were not discriminatory to me, saying that I could not do it. Every time I am in the field, I am highly motivated to be doing what I thought was a job reserved for men.”
Fahamu Mirhimeluya, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, is another refugee who has received training. He says: “I find customers who buy solar products from other companies and do not know how to install it, they call me and I am able to install and make some money. In other cases, those who may have problems with their electricity, they call upon me to fix it as I understand about wiring. I had never had any form of job before this training.”
Solar Freeze plans to expand its work into other refugee camps, and to nearby nations including Rwanda and Uganda. CEO Dysmus Kisilu explains: “When we think of a refugee camp, we don’t generally think of the struggles that clinics and small enterprises face without cooling. Through the Ashden Award, we want to highlight the resilience that renewable energy builds.”
4 November 2021
Natural Climate Solutions
Cooling in Informal Settlements Award
UK Climate Innovation Award
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