During my first conversation with Monika I naively asked if there would be a fridge available for me to use in Mayana and she replied „No, but you could build one“. To be honest, I thought this lady was crazy…how am I supposed to build a fridge??? Especially if there is no electricity. But I was thinking of a fridge like one we all consider to be a fridge. I jumped on google to discover that in many African countries “charcoal fridges” are being used which work on the principal of evaporation to keep fresh produce longer. They are designed to provide an environment which is both lower than the ambient temperature and at a higher level of relative humidity for the storage of fresh produce so it loses less water. The charcoal provides a porous structure to which water is added. As wind flows across the wet wall the air temperature is decreased due to the loss of heat through the evaporation of water. Thereby the temperature is normally lowered by 5 to 10 °C depending on relative humidity of the ambient air. Don’t you just love science?! 🙂
Knowing this, I was sure that I could construct one of these charcoal fridges. I searched youtube.com for tutorial videos and was lucky to find a design that I could construct – here is the one I used as a reference. So Joseph and I went to “Build It!” in Rundu to gather all the materials. It was a rather interesting experience, because you didn’t put everything on a cart but attendants were writing the EAN-codes on a piece of paper for us. When we got to the cashier of course most codes were wrong or could not be found on the system. So I did the round again and photographed all the price tags of the desired goods, so the cashier could scan them from my phone. You’d think that they would figure out a better procedure from that experience and I am sure we weren’t the first customers this had happened to, but why bother if it works like this. After paying we had to go to a counter to present the receipt so our materials could be put together. Surprisingly everything was loaded to the truck we hired in town and made it to Mayana.
Since there was no way to watch the youtube-video again due to really really slow internet in Mayana, Joseph and I constructed the charcoal fridge by memory and made up our own design as we progressed. Since he is a builder by profession, he had all the tools we needed, but trust me, they were not the kind of tools we keep in the shed. The saw was rusty and blunt while the cutter was dull. I did most the sawing, hammering, cutting, screwing and painting and trust me, I paid my dues. I was also very grateful for my leatherman – thanks so much again for that Lulli – which came in pretty handy.
After about 10 hours of constructing, the prototype of a charcoal fridge was done. I have to say that I was pretty proud of myself to have accomplished building it together with Joseph’s guidance and supervision. So if anyone is interested, place you orders 😉 After filling it with charcoal, we wetted the charcoal every two hours so all the dust and fine particles would be washed out and the charcoal would also be able to hold and retain more water. After this we started testing it to figure out the needed watering cycle and believe it or not, but it actually works! While it is around 33°C in the sun, the inside of the fridge is at 24°C.
I am now looking forward to those nice cold beers at night at the fire 😉