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RDC staff at the Milk Selling Point in the Kabarore trading center filling containers of customers with solar cooled milk 

1. Rwanda: 500 Liter Bulk Milk Coolers for Milk Collection Points and Milk Selling Points

1.1. History and Results

In early 2021, the small volume bulk milk cooling component of GreenTech was shifted from Tanzania to Rwanda to take advantage of GreenTech partner Clean Energy Technology’s (CET) growing knowledge of the dairy sector and special expertise in implementing solar + storage projects. CET narrowed the selection for the bulk milk cooling pilot project to three cooperatives in Gatsibo district: Kibondo, Kiramuruzi and Rwimbogo Dairy Cooperatives. Each of cooperative’s leadership was contacted and the project proposed to them. Of the three cooperatives, only Rwimbogo Dairy Cooperative’s (RDC) newly hired Cooperative Manager had the vision and motivation to take advantage of the opportunity and take the risk of working with an unknown entity. It is important to note that it took great patience and perseverance on CET’s part to win the confidence of the Board and members in a series of General Assembly meetings. The original project planned was providing RDC farmers was with farm-based cooling using small fridges. However, it was the 500-liter bulk milk coolers that caught the new manager’s attention.

After more interactions with the leadership at RDC, it was agreed that one bulk milk cooler could anchor a Milk Collection MCP in the unserved area of Gitoki, increasing the volume of milk collected and thereby potential revenue. In addition, the total volume and quality of the milk could be further improved by testing away from MCC and cooling the milk right away, reducing rejection rates. The other bulk milk cooler could be strategically located in a nearby trading center to as a Milk Selling Point (MSP). Here the milk could be sold at higher price than to the major processor Inyange or to locals in the rural area where the milk collection center (MCC) is located. The increased income from the bulk milk coolers would support the cooperative to meet its operating costs as well as pay off their 10% investment/contribution for the coolers. A feasibility assessment was conducted for the possible locations suggested by the cooperative members. Rwagitima trading center was selected as the new MCP and Kabarore trading center was chosen as the MSP.

After selecting the points for installing the bulk milk coolers collectively with RDC members, an assessment for the solar and storage requirements of installing the coolers was done by CET based on the technical specification of the coolers. A bill of materials and importation, transport and installation costs for the project were determined and presented for approval by SunDanzer. On approval of funding for the subproject, discussions between SDZ, CET and RDC leadership were initiated, resulting a signed a Letter of Intent on 10/12/2021 that outlined the key terms agreed by all parties.

After a long period waiting for the imported milk coolers to arrive, systems at both the MCP and MSP locations were installed in July of 2022`. These quality milk coolers had a capacity of 500 liters and were manufactured by FIC Spa in Italy and ran-on AC electricity. The brand and model were selected based on power efficiency. Extra capacity was designed into the photovoltaic system to allow future growth, should RDC need to install a second cooler with increases in production and sales. The solar power system at each site has 6 kW of solar panels installed with an inverter/charger and 5 lithium batteries of 5 kWh each. The power storage system was included to support night cooling of milk when this should become necessary. The national electrical grid acts as the back-up to the system. The total installed cost of the two bulk milk coolers was approximately $88,000 USD. This cost included installation of the entire milk cooler systems, including solar water heater systems to provide hot water for sanitation.

This project as well as the rehabilitation of a solar+storage system a the MCC and sale of 50 liter fridges to farmers is covered in depth in the Case Study: Implementation of a Solar Powered Cold Chain at a Rwandan Dairy Cooperative.

1.2. Current Status

As of October 2022, the milk coolers both at the MCP and MSP had been in operation for about two months with no major technical problems. In March 2023, this message was received from the Cooperative Manager: “We are here enjoying the fruits of the first project. Today we selling over 1600 liters per day at the Kabarore MSP and Gitoki MCP. Among these liters, 500 is being received at the Gitoki site.” This is evidence that the project helped the coop expand its territory (serve new farmers while increasing its collection volume), diversify the business, create jobs and increase revenues.

Related Resources

"For the developing world, refrigeration is growth. In Rwanda, it could spark an economic transformation." Article written by Nicola Twilley, published in New Yorker magazine, August 15, 2022

Case Study: Implementation of a Solar Powered Cold Chain in a Rwandan Dairy Cooperative: The pilot project at Rwimbogo Dairy Cooperative, Gatsibo District, Eastern Province of Rwanda

In the months of May through July 2022, Rwimbogo Dairy Cooperative (RDC), Clean Energy Technologies (CET) and SunDanzer Refrigeration (SDZ), funded by the IFAD grant Green Technologies to Facilitate Development of Value Chains for Perishable Crops and Animal Products (GreenTech), partnered to conceive and implement Rwanda’s first cooperative-wide solar powered cold chain.

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