14 Dec 2020
The Rwandan Government has formally launched the new African Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold Chain (ACES) that is hosted in-country by the University of Rwanda. At the inception meeting, a high-level cross-department team was established to lead the Centre’s development.
In collaboration with the core technical partners - the University of Birmingham and UN Environment Programme’s United for Efficiency (UNEP U4E) - progress in setting up the centre has quickened with the official endorsement of planned activities. ACES will help get farmers’ produce to market quickly and efficiently – reducing food waste, boosting profits and creating jobs as well as look to improve cold-chains for vaccines and health, now recognised globally as a key challenge for Civid-19 immunisation.
University of Rwanda site designated for ACES
ACES brings together multi-disciplinary UK and in-country expertise with commercial partners to develop and demonstrate ways of delivering affordable lowest carbon emissions cooling and cold-chain systems while meeting Africa’s social and economic cooling needs. Associated “Living Labs” will conduct state-of-the-art research and offer technical assistance, demonstrations and knowledge transfer. The first Living Lab is anticipated in rural Rwanda, with others to follow in additional countries.
Dr. Mujawamariya Jeanne d’Arc, Rwanda Minister of Environment, commented : “The Rwanda Cooling Initiative with UNEP U4E has assisted the development of National Cooling Strategy in 2019 and it is now providing the foundation for ACES, which will bring together talent from across Africa to develop and deploy world-class cooling solutions. The Rwandan government supports the establishment of the Centre with our partners over the months and years ahead.”
Researchers from the University of Birmingham, Cranfield University, London South Bank University and Heriot Watt University are applying their expertise with rural cooling and cold-chain, backed by funding from the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
The project’s first cooling needs and gap assessment report is nearing completion, after in-country interviews with representatives from agricultural co-operatives and communities across Rwanda, as well as key Ministries, private companies and NGOs. With analysis of energy consumption and sources, food and value losses, facilities and equipment, refrigerants and cold chain demand, the report will help guide the design of ACES.
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Rwanda noted, “We are delighted to announce that the University has designed part of Rubirizi campus as the site for ACES. The layout of the site is under development. The location is ideally situated in the capital of Kigali, with existing facilities and space for demonstration of new technologies and future expansion. We also established an inter-disciplinary cohort of experts from across the University’s colleges to underpin the development of ACES’ cooling solutions"
Rwanda is one of the least urbanised countries in Africa with 73% of the workforce employed in agriculture. In sub-Saharan Africa, 54% of workers rely on the agricultural sector. A further challenge is that agriculture in Rwanda is dominated by six million small and marginal farmers, each on average farming less than 0.6hectares of land.
Project co-developer and technical lead Toby Peters, Professor of Cold Economy at the University of Birmingham, said : “Farmers need robust means of getting perishable produce to urban markets and medical staff must move temperature-sensitive vaccines to rural communities, but cold chain logistics must be sustainable. The Centre’s progress means we move closer to this goal in Rwanda and the wider continent without using fossil fuels - giving Africa the means to feed millions of citizens effectively and meet export targets to drive growth.”
The project supports the Rwandan National Agricultural Export Development Board’s (NAEB) five-year strategy to double agricultural exports by 2024-25 and significantly increase exports of aqua-culture, beef and other temperature-sensitive products.
At the same time, the work will contribute to not only supporting the efficient and equitable delivery of COVID-19 vaccination but also design solutions which contribute to long-term cold-chain and energy resilience with a lasting legacy.
Around 40 per cent of Rwanda’s population live below the poverty threshold (US$1.90 a day) – with women, disabled, widowed, and rural populations disproportionately affected. According to the World Bank, food loss represents 12% of annual GDP, 21% of total land and contributes 16% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Traders with access to cooling facilities access higher value markets – worth up to 10 times the local market.
Rwanda’s population is estimated to nearly double by 2050. In a world where climate change has a negative impact on food cycles, intensifying food production alone is no longer a viable solution to respond to the emerging food demand. Mitigating food loss will be key to food security.
For more information, interviews or an embargoed copy of the research paper, please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0)782 783 2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org and Brian Holuj, Programme Management Officer, UNEP U4E at email@example.com. For out-of-hours enquiries, please call +44 (0) 7789 921 165.
Notes for editors
• The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
• The Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold Chain is led by Rwanda’s Ministry of Environment, the University of Rwanda, UNEP’s United for Efficiency initiative, the University of Birmingham and Heriot Watt University, and Defra to support the roll-out of sustainable post-harvest management (PHM) and cold-chain pan-Africa. The Centre aligns with a portfolio of Rwandan and UK policies, and economic growth strategies as well as international commitments to the SDGs, Paris Agreement NDCs and Kigali Amendment of the Montreal Protocol. This project is a parallel initiative to the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Post-Harvest Management and cold chain in India developed by University of Birmingham working with the Department for International Trade and British High Commission. This aligns to Prime-Minster Modi’s objective to double farmers’ incomes
• UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. The U4E team conducts market transformation projects throughout much of Africa on sustainable cooling, lighting and equipment, including the award-winning Rwanda Cooling initiative with the Rwandan Government, which provides the basis for ACES.