The government, through Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), has secured $1.3 million (approximately Rwf1.5 billion) from partners to support the development of a cold chain system. The primary goal of this initiative is to reduce post-harvest losses and improve cold-chain infrastructure, including vaccine storage and distribution, by providing clean cooling solutions throughout Rwanda. ALSO READ: Growing concerns over food wastage The funding, provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF), will contribute to the establishment and operationalization of the Africa Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold-Chain (ACES). This center, which was established in 2020, will be hosted by the University of Rwanda (UR) at its Rubirizi Campus in Kigali, and aims to mitigate food losses through energy-efficient and climate-friendly cooling technologies. Additionally, it will provide technical assistance and capacity building for cold chain development across the country. The Director General of REMA, Juliet Kabera, highlighted that the support received will aid in creating a cold chain system that benefits farmers by enabling them to transport perishable produce to urban markets without compromising its quality. The use of cooling solutions will allow farmers to harvest their crops on time and store them in cold rooms immediately, ensuring the preservation of their freshness. The produce can then be transported to the market while maintaining its quality, and consumers can also store them in cooling facilities to prevent any loss of quality. Making the cold chain an integral part of Rwanda's critical infrastructure is essential to reducing food loss, improving livelihoods, accelerating economic growth, and achieving our Vision 2050, as well as our international commitments under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and the Paris Agreement. The support we receive will ensure the success of sustainable cooling and cold-chain practices, Kabera said. The Africa Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold-Chain (ACES) will also include a research laboratory focused on studying cold-chain systems for different crops and developing cooling equipment suitable for Rwanda's local climate and temperature conditions. Currently, farmers in Rwanda face significant post-harvest losses, with estimates ranging from 30% to 50% of food produced for human consumption being wasted due to inadequate post-harvest practices and a lack of cold storage facilities. For instance, tomatoes, a widely produced and consumed crop in the country, experience a 25% loss after harvest due to insufficient temperature management. Instead of utilizing modern cooled storage facilities, tomatoes are often stored on the ground and covered with canvas, leading to spoilage. Furthermore, poor-quality containers are used during transportation, exacerbating the issue. ALSO READ: How can we reduce food waste from households? REMA reports that over 60% of nutrients or food quality are lost during the post-harvest period and supply chain from farm to consumer due to the absence of refrigeration facilities. Experts also indicate that nearly 15% of food-related carbon emissions originate from losses within food supply chains caused by inadequate refrigeration and spoilage during transportation and processing. Kabera emphasized the significant impact these projects will have, not only in reducing post-harvest losses but also in increasing agricultural exports, promoting nutritious food, fostering skill development, facilitating student exchange programs, creating job opportunities, improving livelihoods, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This comprehensive approach is expected to substantially enhance the export capacity of fruits, vegetables, aquaculture, beef, and other temperature-sensitive products from Rwanda.