Programme Management Officer, UNEP United for Efficiency
Up to 40% of food is lost between farm and market in sub- Saharan Africa, two thirds of this in the first mile.
To meet the challenge of mitigating this, the Africa Centreof Excellence forSustainable Coolingand Cold-Chain (ACES) has been established by the Governments ofRwanda
and the United Kingdom, the UnitedNations Environment Programme’s United for Efficiency (U4E) initiative, the Centre for Sustainable Cooling, and the University of Rwanda.
Authority (REMA) and U4E initiative to advance thecountry’s sustainable development priorities andambitions for enhanced collaboration on sustainablecooling throughout the continent. Its mission is to develop and accelerate uptake of sustainable cold chain solutions in the agriculture and health sectors throughout Africa.
ACES will economically empower farmers, increase export revenues, enhance job creation in rural areas, mitigate climate and environment impacts, and foster low-carbon development. Food cold chains, integrated with other cold- dependent services such as vaccine distribution, will be demonstrated in showcase “Living Laboratories” in Rwanda and more broadly in the coming years.
Launched in 2020, the Centre is hosted by the University of Rwanda at its Rubirizi Campus in Kigali and will
be fully operational in 2022. Itwill connect local and international experts, investors, private companies, farmers’ organisations, and energy and logistics providers. Living Laboratories will be deployed in strategic locations in
rural areas and will conduct research and offer technical assistance, demonstrations and knowledge transfer to rural communities.
Speaking at a virtual showcase for ACES in October 2021, Dr Jeanne d’ Arc Mujawamariya, Rwanda’s Minister of Environment, commented, “Rwanda is proud to host ACES. We look forward to working with our partners to chart the course for Africans to emerge as global role models in pivoting away from significant food losses toward robust economic gains, healthy communities, and climate-friendly agribusiness opportunities.”
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, on average each farming less than 0.6 hectares of land.
High Commissioner Omar Daair further noted that, “Climate change is the greatest challenge facing the world today, and agriculture is vital to the livelihoods of so many Rwandans and to economic development across Africa. I’m really excited to see how this partnership of world leading experts from the UK, Rwanda and beyond will find solutions to the challenge of sustainable cooling. And I’m proud that this is being spearheaded right here in Kigali with support from the UK.”
Brian Holuj, ACES project co-developer, UNEP U4E noted, “ACES is instrumental in orchestrating the requisite collaboration on R&D, capacity building, awareness raising, deployment, and investment of market- appropriate solutions for sustainable cooling and cold-chain systems . This pan-African initiative will accelerate the roll-out of affordable low carbon emission cooling and cold-chain systems, while supporting Africa’s social and economic goals.”
To conclude, in the words of Dr Jeanne d’ Arc Mujawamariya, Rwanda’s Minister of Environment, “…we need to reiterate the importance of addressing energy, food, climate nexus. I am calling on partners to join the Africa Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold-Chain (ACES) and build-out ‘Living Laboratories’ in rural communities throughout the continent, helping improve food security and farmers’ livelihood.”