GreenBox: Solving Post-Harvest Loss in the Congo Through Community Cold Chain Storage 

Divin Kouebatouka knows full well what it means to toil as a farmer. Growing up on his parent’s small farm in the Congolese countryside, he worked so hard without the help of mechanical technology that he started to have health problems. With time off from the slew of pre- and post-harvest grueling tasks, he had time to think. There was another issue that plagued him – all that hard work, yet so much of his parents’ produce got lost each year. Surely there had to be a solution. 

Kouebatouka found it in GreenBox, a solar-powered cold storage preservation technology that, he claims, extends shelf life of perishable produce from the usual two-day period to 21 days, helping reduce losses by 50%. Their mobile off-grid preservation technology is made of cold room panels, sensors, a condensing unit, and an evaporator. According to the initiative, they are the first social enterprise to offer an off-grid cold chain solution to small farmers and traders in Congo using the “Pay-As-You-Store” model. Farmers can rent the GreenBox at $25 for a three-week period (the general amount of time needed post-harvest until produce is sold). According to Kouebatouka, the return on investment is favorable: farmers save over $98 on over 100 kg of produce that would otherwise have been lost.  

GreenBox, the Congo

In many parts of the world, small-scale farmers don’t have access to refrigeration that would keep their produce fresh after harvest. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 1.3 billion tons of food is lost every year across the world, contributing up to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In Sub Saharan Africa alone, smaller farmers are losing up to 40% of all harvested produce before getting it to consumers. In GreenBox’s pilot community in the Congo, they found that over 5,000 farmers were losing nearly $1 million each year due to post-harvest losses. That is an astronomical sum for a group of people whose profit margins are already so slim. 

There are five GreenBoxes installed in the northern and southern regions of Congo, utilized by over 5,000 smallholder farmers, retailers, and wholesalers. Around 80% of their clients are women – a factor that is part of GreenBox’s community model. To date, the initiative has mentored and trained 1,500 rural women and youth in the field of renewable energy, teaching them how to use, maintain, and repair equipment like the GreenBox. As a result, 8 operator jobs have been created for women.  

Though GreenBox, which was founded in 2020, is still in its early years, the initiative claims impressive results: they’ve reduced post-harvest losses by 95%, helped farmers increase their income by 95%, and avoided the waste of 20,000 tons of food, which represents 5.3 metric tons, 10.8 tons of waste recycled instead of being landfilled. With such results, they’re looking to expand across Congo, and then continue to help farmers keep their produce chilled and fresh across the continent.  

More about the GreenBox.

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