RABAT (Morocco) • Inspired by an ancestral Moroccan design, natural clay-based refrigerators are being used as an ingenious solution to a variety of modern-day problems. A young start-up is aiming to provide these refrigerators to low-income communities without access to electricity to store both perishable foods and vital medicines at low temperatures.
Like many women living without electricity in villages across Morocco, Fatima has learnt to organise both her and her family's weekly food intake so as to minimise losses. However, these practical alterations come with health-related consequences: an unbalanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables just after market day, then heavy in starch and legumes towards the end of the week.
"The idea for this project emerged when we noticed a need for natural refrigerators during a number of field trips," explains co-founder and CEO of Go Energyless Raowia Lamhar. Early last year, Ms Lamhar and her team created the first clay-based refrigerator prototype by collaborating with a local potter in Zenata, near the city of Mohammedia. This storage tool gives users the ability to preserve food products for around 10 to 15 days, depending on the conditions.
Today, thanks to the implementation of this ancient cooling method, women like Fatima are able to have access to a much more diverse food supply.
However, far from being a mere kitchen utensil, the natural refrigerator has also become an incredible solution to a far more critical problem: How to preserve medicines without electricity. Medicines such as insulin lose all of their effectiveness when they are not stored in the right conditions, away from strong light and heat sources. In certain regions of Morocco, where temperatures can top 50 deg C, a lack of refrigeration techniques can prove life threatening.
"With the natural refrigerator, our ability to preserve both medicine and food without electricity has been greatly improved," says Ms Lamhar.
While still in the fifth year of her engineering diploma, specialising in water engineering and the environment, Ms Lamhar has also taken on the title of entrepreneur. Go Energyless, the start-up she co-founded and which is launching this project, is looking to increase its rate of production to meet a growing demand. To achieve both this and its other goals, Go Energyless wants the natural refrigerator to reach a wider audience, primarily by sourcing donors able to fund their distribution to some of the poorest communities, where the need is greatest.