Sarah Parsons

Solar-Powered Camel Clinics Carry Medicine Across the Desert

by , 12/01/09

sustainable design, green design, solar power, solar refrigerator camel, design for health, sustainable transportation

Kenya’s camels recently started sporting some unusual apparel: eco-friendly refrigerators! Some of the African country’s camels are carrying the solar-powered mini fridges on their backs as part of a test project that uses camels as mobile health clinics. Organizers hope the eco-friendly transport system will provide a cheap, reliable way of getting much-needed medicines and vaccines to rural communities in Kenya and Ethiopia.

sustainable design, green design, solar power, solar refrigerator camel, design for health, sustainable transportation

For the past decade, Nomadic Communities Trust has been using camels as mobile health clinics in Kenya’s Laikipia and Samburu districts, isolated areas with few roadways. While the camel convoys provide a cost-effective method of traversing the harsh terrain, the group had no way of delivering medicines and vaccines that required refrigeration — until now. In 2005, Nomadic Communities Trust partnered with California’s Art Center College of Design’s Designmatters and Princeton’s Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials (PRISM). Together, the groups created a lightweight and durable solar-powered refrigerator that can be strapped to camels’ backs in order to transport chilled medicines and vaccines.

The mini fridge is housed in a bamboo saddle that is lightweight and durable enough for camels to easily carry it across miles of rough terrain. The device itself is covered with crystalline solar panels that provide power for the compartmented fridge’s generator. The solar panels themselves can also be used by the mobile clinics for lighting and refrigeration in the field.

sustainable design, green design, solar power, solar refrigerator camel, design for health, sustainable transportation

Mariana Amatullo, Designmatters‘ executive director, said the project was designed with a budget of only a few thousand dollars. To save money, designers tested the device on the Bronx Zoo’s camels so people wouldn’t have to fly back and forth to Kenya.

The solar-powered fridges are currently being tested on camels in Kenya and Ethiopia, but Amatullo says the system could be used by any rural communities with access to camels. If the project secures enough funding, it will be implemented in earnest in 2010. Let’s hope the eco-friendly venture receives the money it needs — in the Laikipia and Samburu districts alone, 300,000 people do not have access to the mobile health clinics.

+ Nomadic Communities Trust

+ Designmatters

+ PRISM

Via Ecofriend.org

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12 Comments

  1. cloudlet July 25, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    Dear Sarah Parsons,

    First of all, I was impressed on co-woking of people with different professions.
    After seeing this article, I have been thought about my life and belief. Umm…

    I am making a brochure for a client who has a dream making vaccines for African children.
    He was also impressed on this picture and wanted to show it to many people.
    Would you like to permit to use this first picture in brochure?

    I am waiting to receive a good feedback.
    Thank you.

    Best regards,
    Marie Kim

  2. Severine van Bommel June 25, 2013 at 3:22 am

    Dear Sarah Parsons,

    I am working at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and I am co-ordinating the organisation of a conference next year. I would like to ask your permission to use the first photo (the camel in the desert transporting medicine) for the website of our conference. The picture is a great illustration of the kind of issues that we want to discuss.

    I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.

    Kind regards,

    Severine van Bommel
    (researcher – the Netherlands)

  3. srabeca March 17, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Dear Sarah Parsons
    I\’m doing an academic work about transport temperature of medicines. I\’d like to ask for your permission to use this photography and to make a mention to this incredible approach that you describe.

    Please, be so kind to give me your feedback in a short time.

    Hope to hear good news from you soon.

    Best regards
    Sara Rabeca (Pharmacist- Portugal)

  4. hectorconsultants September 30, 2011 at 1:26 am

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    from office to grassroots is a call of goodwill initiative to professionals ; for them to give their 2-3hrs after every three months in different district per quarter,through their skills to their communities. the main areas of focus being trainings on FINANCIAL PLANNING/MGT,LINKING/NETWORKING,ESTABLISHING SOCIAL ECONOMIC FORUMS THOUGH THEIR ADMINISTRATIVE UNITS.
    THE TRAININGS ARE FREE OF CHARGE AND THE TRAININGS CONDUCTED WHERE THE PEOPLE ENGAGE I.E TO WHERE THEY LIVE.
    THE ACTIVITY IS OPEN TO ALL WHO WOULD LIKE TO SUPPORT BUT IT ALL STARTS WITH YOU SHARING THE SKILL YOU HAVE. WE NEED LOTS OF INFORMATION THAT WOULD BE HELPFUL TO OPEN UP OUR YOUNG PEOPLE,WOMEN,MEN AND SMALL-SCALE BUSINESS PEOPLE.
    FOR ANY ENQUIRIES/SUPPORT ON THE PROJECT CALL +254 721 233 770.EMAIL: hectorconsultants@yahoo.com
    fromofficetograssroots@gmail.com.. G

  5. kazumi September 29, 2011 at 9:36 am

    great idea to use both solar panels and camels!

  6. iguniwari September 29, 2011 at 8:06 am

    saving energy and humanity @ the same time, wat could b more sustainable… nice concept, i luv d work

  7. taeko June 18, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Hello, my friend working at Japanese TV broadcasting company wants to have an interview about this article.
    How can we contact Inhabitat members?

  8. Feel-Live January 8, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Camels might be considered invasive creatures destroying the countryside and intimidating the locals in Australia, but in Africa these nomadic animals are seen in a much more positive light. For years, organizations such as the Nomadic Communities Trust (NCT) have relied on camels to transport medicine and supplies to remote locales.

    And now the camels are going solar. NCT, in partnership with Princeton University and The Art College of Design in California, have created solar-powered mini-fridges that strap to the camel’s back.

    Featuring an ergonomic bamboo saddle, folding solar panels and a foot powered backup system, these solar powered mini-fridges can store vaccines and other medicines desperately needed in remote areas located off the power grid.

    Once in the field, the solar panels will used not only to power the refrigeration systems but also to provide light at mobile clinic locations.

    Currently being tested in Ethiopia and Kenya, it is hoped that these eco-friendly, camel-friendly solar powered mini-fridges will be in widespread use by 2010.

  9. Diana Roze January 8, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Camels might be considered invasive creatures destroying the countryside and intimidating the locals in Australia, but in Africa these nomadic animals are seen in a much more positive light. For years, organizations such as the Nomadic Communities Trust (NCT) have relied on camels to transport medicine and supplies to remote locales.

    And now the camels are going solar. NCT, in partnership with Princeton University and The Art College of Design in California, have created solar-powered mini-fridges that strap to the camel’s back.

    Featuring an ergonomic bamboo saddle, folding solar panels and a foot powered backup system, these solar powered mini-fridges can store vaccines and other medicines desperately needed in remote areas located off the power grid.

    Once in the field, the solar panels will used not only to power the refrigeration systems but also to provide light at mobile clinic locations.

    Currently being tested in Ethiopia and Kenya, it is hoped that these eco-friendly, camel-friendly solar powered mini-fridges will be in widespread use by 2010.

  10. Eli December 27, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    This camel is from Israel.
    In the NEGEV desert in Israel they are using these camels in order to bring light to far places.
    I have seen this also in Solar-Israel.co.il

  11. matthewharrisonsmith December 2, 2009 at 1:16 am

    ingenious. it makes me smile!

  12. Kirsten Corsaro December 1, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Wow, that’s not something you see every day. Great use of solar panels.

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