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Jars of Clay

What simple clay pots might mean for food security

This idea hinges on an interesting use for a very basic technology. Two architects from the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC) are working with the community-based organization Tena Kebena to build on an ancient food storage technique—clay pots—to see if it can prolong the lives of perishable foods like fruits and vegetables. Clay pots are nothing new when it comes to keeping water cool in hot humid climates. But figuring out how clay pots might extend the shelf life of fresh foods could increase profits for market vendors in Addis Ababa and amount to more food to go around. The project will co-create the storage units with a local women’s craft cooperative dedicated to clay-based products.

In summer 2016, the team is engaging in some preliminary research and testing out small versions of what this storage solution might look like. They’ve used clay insulation concepts in different forms so far in a community workshop—using clay and sand as insulation in a refrigerator-shaped storage facility. They have also gotten feedback on natural cooling techniques such as hanging vegetables in wet burlap sacks and using evaporation to keep food cool. Part of what Tena Kebena has learned is that having things out in the open and visible is important to both vendors and buyers, so though the bags work well, they’re not ideally suited for the market.

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