The solar company Phaesun, together with local partners in East Africa, has successfully implemented a comprehensive program to introduce solar-powered cooling technology over the course of two years. Technical trainings, establishment of local production lines, and installation of demonstration units for cooling milk, cheese, and vegetables at smallholder farmers have contributed to knowledge and technology transfer to Tanzania and Zambia.
Many regions in East Africa have optimal climatic conditions and fertile soils for local agriculture and livestock farming. However, the lack of refrigeration facilities in rural areas often results in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products perishing. Solar-powered cooling systems can provide a solution, but there is a lack of local expertise, and the distribution of foreign technologies is hindered by high transportation costs, import duties, and bureaucracy. The “SelfChill Tanzania and Zambia” project aimed to address these challenges.
German companies Phaesun and Solar Cooling Engineering jointly developed the SelfChill technology for solar-powered modular cooling systems that are specifically designed for use by smallholder farmers in tropical and subtropical regions. In addition to its highly efficient technology based on natural refrigerants and ice storage, the unique modular design of the systems allows for the integration of locally available materials such as insulation material, pipes, and foil, enabling local companies to build cooling systems according to customer needs.
“Africa-made” cold rooms based on German technology
In collaboration with a Zambian and Tanzanian installation company, the SelfChill team from Germany established workshops in Lusaka, Zambia, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The technical teams of the local companies received training in Germany as well as in the target countries. Core components were shipped to East Africa, and additional installation materials were procured locally. The first cooling systems are now operational as demonstrations at farmers’ fields and schools in Lusaka and Dar es Salaam. For example, the food for the school cafeteria at Mango Grove Orphanage in Lusaka is stored in a SelfChill cold room. Local market vendors also utilize a section of the cold room to store their vegetables overnight. In Tanzania, a SelfChill cold room and a milk can cooling system were implemented at a local dairy plant near Dar es Salaam, ensuring high-quality milk and enabling production and storage of hard cheese.
Knowledge transfer as a crucial pillar
In addition to the technical partners, the team worked with Fountain Gate Training Institute in Lusaka, conducting trainings and conferences. This allowed school teachers, who previously focused solely on solar technology, to acquire and pass on new knowledge. Sonja Mettenleiter, an agricultural engineer and trainer at Solar Cooling Engineering, conducted the trainings in Zambia and supervised the installations. She reported: “Our main focus is to ensure that local partners understand the technology and use it according to their needs. Through their innovation, entirely new system configurations have emerged!” She referred, for example, to a milk can cooling system where a discarded freezer was used as the base and transformed into a new system using the SelfChill core components through upcycling.
Overall, Sonja Mettenleiter, the agricultural engineer at Solar Cooling Engineering looks back positively on the project: “We started in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In-person trainings and travel were hardly possible, and international trade was restricted, resulting in delayed delivery of our materials. Through the teamwork of different partners and a lot of improvisation, we can now proudly say that solar cooling is gaining momentum in East Africa.”
The “SelfChill Tanzania and Zambia” project was initiated by Phaesun and implemented in a project consortium of five international partners over the course of two years. It was funded by EEP’s Nordic Development Fund.