The Marvelous Pot-in-Pot

(posted 2011)

In parts of Nigeria, a quiet revolution has been happening in the lives of villagers. Suddenly, families previously without electricity are able to keep food fresh for weeks at a time. Young girls who previously had to stay at home are now able to attend school. Family income is on the rise.

The electric grid did not suddenly extend into these villages, and no person or group invested money to upgrade Nigeria’s infrastructure. No; the change came about as the result of a marvelous — and marvelously simple — invention: Pot-in-Pot.

Cost? About $1.25.

Mohammed Bah Abba, a Nigerian inventor, was aware of the ways in which lack of access to refrigeration was impoverishing the lives of his people. With no way to keep food from spoiling, villagers were forced to harvest food every day. Girls always had to be home to collect food, and so they could not attend school. Small farmers had to sell crops immediately, and their desperation meant that buyers shortchanged them. Additionally, there was the inconvenience and health impact caused by lack of safe methods for food preservation.

Mohammed Bah Abba came up with a solution to this problem with his “Pot-in-Pot” invention.

The device works like this: food is placed inside a small terracotta pot, which in turn is placed inside a larger one. The whole thing is covered with a damp cloth, while the space in between the two pots is filled with sand. Users of the Pot-in-Pot keep the sand wet, and the water slowly evaporates through the porous clay. Evaporation, in turn, cools the contents of the inner pot.

The efficacy of this device is remarkable. Many fruits and vegetables stay fresh up to nine times longer than they did at room temperature, thanks to this invention.

With a safe and effective method of food preservation, families can make more money from their produce, and improve their situations; girls are free to pursue their studies; these educated girls, in turn, will grow into educated women. Studies show time and again that the health and education levels of children correlate most closely with the education levels of their mothers; these newly-educated girls will have more tools at their disposal to care for their families, and will, in time, lift up the standard of living of their entire communities.

From one small invention, there are now untold benefits cascading upwards with an impact for several generations to come.

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