Unable to get his hands on necessary technology in his struggling village in Nigeria, Samuel Kurufo has been storing animal meat and vegetables in jars, on tanks and in an old tyre.
But his experiments, while greatly improved on storing traditional china jars filled with dry bulk spices and raw meat, are not enough to save him from his financial plight and the burning desire to change his life.
His search for better ways to extend the shelf life of food and turn it into marketable palatable products is partly behind his project with Google, Cora Studios and the Americans for Entrepreneurship of Nigeria (Aeon) for a cold storage pilot project.
The cold chain project uses solar technology to store food for around 15 days. Kurufo explained how it works. “All these containers all have integrated photovoltaic cells [converting light to electricity], which actually provide the energy to charge the batteries. The lithium iron phosphate and the few times of batteries to be used during the two-week shelf life are actually sourced from the batteries used in your portable fuel cell.”
The two remaining batteries that could be found with few difficulties are placed in the most rudimentary cooling system known as an air-conditioner, and the other two are fitted with screws and plugs in the fridge to control temperatures.
For Kurufo, solar technology seems to be the best technology available and is essentially a cheaper, more convenient alternative to traditional refrigeration systems.
“More people would have access to food and there is less waste, and perishables can be stored longer,” he said.
His energy saving experiment also cuts on gas bills which, when combined with his young three-year-old son’s school fees payment, he can no longer afford to pay.
His passion for traditional foods and his desire to improve his son’s health and livelihood are his driving forces, but not without real anxiety, he said.
“Most of the food in Nigeria, especially those for the rich people, are not made to be edible and amenable to the tastes and fashions we are known for,” he explained.
And the fact that the research and development doesn’t extend to those who suffer malnutrition and diet-related diseases adds to the pressure on him.
“For me it was a necessity and I am more than happy and I made a commitment to do something for our country, for our people,” he said.
“And what it basically means is the people should have the knowledge, the resources, the technology, the technologies of making these things, and it’s usually not cheap for the government to do.”