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How to keep food cool without the need for a fridge or electricity

The pot-in-pot refrigerator known as Zeer in Arabic is a clever food refrigeration device that keeps food cool without the need for power. The Zeer , that uses evaporative cooling, was invented in 1995 by a Nigerian chap named Mohammed Bah Abba and in the year 2000 he was awarded a Roxlex Laurate from the Rolex Awards for Enterprise for his invention.

The Zeer is created by placing a clay pot inside another clay pot, placing wet sand in between them and putting a wet cloth on top. The device works because when the water starts to evaporate, the pot cools, and this in turn keeps the food inside the inner pot fresh for far longer in hot and dry climates. The Zeer must be placed in dry, ventilated spaces for the water to effectively evaporate towards the outside.

In Northern Nigeria over 90% of the villages have no electricity, but thanks to Mohammed’s invention, when it comes to keeping their food fresh they don’t need it. When food is put into the pot it can last up to three weeks, rather than the few days it would normally keep. As well as improving the quality of life in terms of fresh food this invention has had another very positive effect to, many children, who used to be expected to sell food in the markets, are now attending school. With less food wastage there is less need for the income they historically brought in. And I think you have to admit that is pretty ‘cool’!

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