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Mohammed Bah AbbaCool food in the desert

Published in 2000Time to read: 0min 51s

In a semi-arid land with no refrigeration, food perishes quickly, causing major problems for local people. But Mohammed Bah Abba, who came from a family of potters, had a spectacularly simple solution.


The late Bah Abba’s “desert refrigerator” or “pot-in-pot” is his extraordinary legacy to the subsistence farmers of his native Nigeria. It also made him famous, having been named one of the 2001 Inventions of the Year by Time magazine.

Farmers are now able to sell on demand rather than rush sell because of spoilage.

It works very simply: one pot sits inside another and damp sand fills the space in between. As the sand dries in the desert air, heat in the inner pot is wicked away, keeping the contents cool.

By 2005, with help from his Rolex Award, Bah Abba had distributed nearly 100,000 pot-in-pots in 11 northern Nigerian states, as well as in parts of Cameroon, Chad, Eritrea, Niger and Sudan. In 2008, an adaptation of the pot-in-pot was used in Guinea by the non-governmental organization Médecins Sans Frontières to store antimalarial drugs for children. Bah Abba also helped introduce the concept in The Gambia. The ability to conserve perishable foods has boosted the incomes and lives of farmers. Bah Abba died in 2010, but articles on his work continue to be published.

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    Number of days eggplants stayed fresh in Bah Abba’s first trials of the pot-in-pot, compared with the usual three days


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