Zeer pot fridge
How a clay pot refrigerator can help beat hunger
In hot climates, food doesn’t stay fresh for long. Tomatoes go off in just two days. After four days carrots and okra are rotten. With no means of preserving their crops, poverty stricken families have been battling hunger and even famine.
One ingenious solution is the zeer pot. Using this simple technology, the same vegetable can last for up to 20 days. This all natural refrigerator offers families, who already succeed in food production, their right to food preservation and really can help to improve their everyday lives; for now and for the future.
A simple technology that brings fresh hope
The zeer pot is a simple fridge made of local materials. It consists of one earthenware pot set inside another, with a layer of wet sand in between. As the moisture evaporates it cools the inner pot, keeping up to 12kg of fruit and vegetables fresher for longer.
Making a zeer pot fridge
1 First, bowl-shaped moulds are created from mud and water – and left to dry in the sun. Clay is then pressed onto the moulds to form the desired size of pot. Clay rims and bases are added and the moulds are removed. The pots are left to dry in the sun.
2 Once the pots have been fired in a pit of sticks, the zeer pot is ready to assemble. A smaller pot is placed inside a larger one, and the space in between filled with sand.
3 The whole structure is then placed on a large iron stand. This allows the air to flow underneath and aid the cooling process.
4 Twice a day, water is added to the sand between the pots so that it remains moist. The entire assembly is left in a dry, ventilated place.
5 Fruit, vegetables and sorghum – a type of cereal prone to fungal infestation if not preserved – are then placed in the smaller pot, which is covered with a damp cloth.
6 In the heat, the water contained in the sand evaporates towards the outer surface of the larger pot. This evaporation brings about a drop in temperature of several degrees, cooling the inner pot and extending the shelf life of the perishable food inside.
In the hot weather of Sudan, Hawa Abbas used to lose half of her tomato, okra and carrot crop.
Her world changed when she began working with Practical Action. As she herself says, “After many years of struggle, Practical Action came and showed us how to make pottery refrigerators. They are made in two different sized pots. The smaller is put inside the bigger one and in between we put sand and wet it with water and cover it.”
“They keep our vegetables fresh for 3-4 weeks, depending on the type of crop. They are very good in a hot climate such as ours where fruit and vegetables get spoiled in one day.”
It is clear to Hawa Abbas how important this has been to her family. “Since I learned how to make zeer pots our life has been so much better.”
Just £30 could buy 3 zeer pots and help improve people's lives for the future. If you are able to, please buy a Practical Present on behalf of your loved one or make a donation to Practical Action's work today. You really can make a difference.
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You can download further information on cold storage and preservation from Practical Answers, the technical information service of Practical Action, or you can ask a technical enquiry to the Practical Action staff via the online form.
Keeping produce fresh with refrigeration methods that require no external power.
Clay-based technologies manual: building the zeer pot refrigerator
Step by step instructions, photos and technical drawings for the manufacture of the zeer pot clay refrigerator
The ceramic refrigerator uses evaporative cooling to keep food fresh without a power source.
Zeer pot in pot ceramic refrigerator
Technical drawings showing the construction of a zeer pot clay refrigerator
This Technical Brief gives an outline of the storage requirements of different crops, and looks at the construction and operation of cold stores.