Pot-in-pot Enterprise: Fridge for the Poor
In 2000, Mohammed Bah Abba was awarded the Rolex Award for Enterprise for his innovative Pot-in-Pot system to provide affordable, electricity free, refrigeration in arid Nigeria.
In northern Nigeria, where Mohammed is from, over 90% of the villages have no electricity. His invention is a refrigerator than runs without electricity. Mohammed took an old local understanding of the cooling properties of evaporating water, combined it with the ancient tradition of making clay pots, and turned into a useful, world-changing innovation: a “desert refrigerator” that helps reduce food spoilage and increases income by increasing the shelf-life of farmers’ produce for sale.
Mobah Rural Horizons, producer of the pot-in‐pot products which is widely termed as the fridge for the poor is based in Kano, Nigeria. The organization was founded in 2000 by Bah Abba. However, its main production centres are in the rural areas of Kano, Jigawa, Borno, Yobe and Katsina States, all in the northern region of Nigeria. The enterprise also operates in some parts of Niger Republic. The pot‐in‐pot preservation/cooling system was invented mainly to help rural farmers preserve their farm products. The product was persistently refined for two years between 1995 and 1997.
Using personal savings, Mr. Abba tapped into the large unemployed local workforce, and produced the first set of pots numbering 12,000, which he distributed to farming households freely. This was done to promote the appreciation of the product as well as stimulate local demand for it. In 2000, he began full commercial production of the pots using local pot makers with each participant making between 15 and 20 pots a day.
The pots sold for between US$ 2 (N300) for the smaller pot-in‐pot and US$ 4 (N600) for the bigger version. As of 2005, the inventor had delivered over 90,000 pots and production has continued to increase. So, instead of perishable foods rotting after only three days, they can last up to three weeks. Pot-in-pot refrigeration has had multiple positive impacts on the population that uses them beyond the simple ability to keep food fresh for longer periods of time and decreasing instances of food-related disease.