The desert refrigerator

March 11, 2013

One hundred thousand pot-in-pots, the ingenious adaptation of Mohammed Bah Abba (who died in 2010) are now in use across northern Nigeria and beyond. Bah Abba was prompted to develop the simple food cooler because much of his semi-arid homeland has no electricity, meaning that perishable foods spoil rapidly. Coming from a family of potters, he designed an efficient, fuel-free cooling unit using only traditional earthenware. One pot sits inside another and damp sand fills the gap between. As the sand dries in the desert air, heat in the inner pot is wicked away, keeping the contents cool and fresher for longer. The ability to conserve perishable foods has boosted the incomes and lives of farmers, given extra variety to the diets of millions of people and lowered the risk of disease. Thanks to his Rolex Award, Bah Abba was able to distribute pot-in-pots in 11 Nigerian states.

A merchant sells spinach in a pot-in-pot at the market in Dutse, Nigeria. © Rolex Awards / Tomas Bertelsen

Learn more about Mohammed Bah Abba

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