Solar Freeze is a social enterprise that aims to reduce food waste in Kenya's small-scale agricultural sector. The group's origin story is rooted in the personal experiences of its founder and team members, who grew up watching their parents and grandparents working on small-scale agricultural plots. Every year, family members would risk losing a large portion of their crop yield due to a lack of proper cold storage units. Dysmus Kisilu, the Founder and CEO of Solar Freeze, recalls that intermediary produce brokers would often "swoop in and offer dirt cheap prices" for these crops. Fearing post-harvest losses, smallholder farmers would often be forced to sell their produce at these reduced prices. Many young Kenyan's were also encouraged to give up agricultural livelihoods in favor of urban opportunities.
The Eastern Province runs through the center of Kenya, spanning vast tracts of agricultural land and the jagged peaks of Mount Kenya. The semi-arid region is wedged between two biodiverse areas identified by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF): the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa Biodiversity Hotspot and the Eastern Afro Mountain Biodiversity Hotspot. Small-scale farmers in Kenya face numerous challenges, including climate change, locust swarms, and lack of access to newer technology and infrastructure. With much of the country classified as arid or semi-arid, drought and unpredictable rainfall patterns make water supplies precarious. Some local communities also experience two problems that seem contradictory at first glance: food insecurity and post-harvest food wastage.
Solar Freeze aims to significantly scale up its operation within five years by serving 2 million smallholder farmers in East Africa. This growing social enterprise aims to provide farmers with internet-connected turnkey solutions to access solar-powered cold rooms. This will continue to reduce food loss, increase agricultural output, and increase smallholder farmer income while reducing carbon emissions and pressures on forests. Solar Freeze has recently formed partnerships with Google SDG Accelerator, USAID, and the local county governments of Kitui, Machakos, Makueni, Kiambu, Nyandarua, and Nyeri to fulfill this vision.
- Thousands of smallholder farmers will gain access to technology that allows them to gain more income and prevent food waste.
- Youth and women will benefit from increased technical training.
- Participants will gain increased awareness of reusable energy.
- Carbon emissions will be reduced through less use of diesel-powered generators.
Agriculture is Africa's biggest employer, accounting for about 60% of the GDP in many of the continent's countries. The majority of the workforce is comprised of women who are smallholder farmers using basic tools with low levels of productivity. A significant barrier to inclusive growth, access to employment and increased food productivity is the lack of access to modern farming equipment for most of these farmers. Solar Freeze provides a viable solution to small-scale farmers, helping them increase productivity and reduce food losses by probyviding productive use assets such as solar-powered cold storage, provideswho,ch is fully run and operated using renewable energy.
Through a "hub and spoke" model, rural women will receive training to own and operate solar-powered cold storage units in their communities. Solar Freeze owns and operates solar-powered cold storage "hub" centers that provide quality food preservation and storage services for smallholder farmers in rural areas. These centers are designed to be best-practice models for the community, providing smallholder farmers with all the renewable energy building blocks they need to thrive.
Solar Freeze has launched a social-franchising program to support local women (called Mamapreneurs) with training, resources, and ongoing mentorship to start or grow their own quality solar-powered cold storage micro-business or "spoke." Spokes are visited weekly by a Spokes Outreach Officer who provides ongoing mentorship and quality assurance on food preservation and safety.
The goals of this project:
- Train 200 Rural Young Women to maintain solar cold rooms
- Install solar powered cold storage units
- Work with Women Micro-Franchise entrepreneurship, providing training costs for running and operating solar cold storage units
Dysmus Kisilu says, "The future of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) depends on inclusive growth that incorporates rural small-scale women farmers to engage in profitable business powered by renewable energy to help feed the future and deliver a prosperous economy."