One of the key components of any medical clinic are refrigerated, life-saving medicines. But what do you do when you live in a hot, harsh climate, and the closest clinic is far, far away? A new project from the Nomadic Communities Trust of Kenya, in collaboration with two US programs, has found a novel solution: solar-powered mini fridges mounted on camels.
Since 1999, the Nomadic Communities Trust has been using camels as mobile health clinics in Kenya’s isolated rural Laikipia and Samburu districts. While the camel convoys have proven a cost-effective method for traversing the harsh terrain, until now they had no way to deliver medicines and vaccines that required refrigeration. In 2005, the group partnered with California’s Art Center College of Design’s Designmatters and Princeton’s Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials (PRISM) to create a lightweight and durable solar-powered refrigerator that can be strapped to camels’ backs in order to transport medicines and vaccines that need to keep their cool over long distances.
The mini fridge is housed in a lightweight bamboo saddle and covered with crystalline solar panels that provide power for the compartmented fridge’s generator, as well as electricity for lighting in the field. According to a statement from Mariana Amatullo, Designmatters‘ executive director, the project was designed with a budget of only a few thousand dollars; in order to save money, designers tested the device on the Bronx Zoo’s camels so they wouldn’t have to fly back and forth to Kenya.