Together with Belgian partner organisations, Horizon Ethical Projects (HEP) is setting up CSR projects in the South to support entrepreneurship within rural communities. A number of Agoria members are also bringing their weight to bear in the cold storage project in Idiofa (DRC). "But the approach can be even more sustainable," stresses HEP chairman Luc Vierendeels. The aim is a centre of competence on renewable energy.
A Belgian project group has been supporting the diocese of Idiofa for many years. Idiofa is located in the southwest of the Democratic Republic of Congo, some 750 kilometres from the capital Kinshasa. The non-profit association Horizon Ethical Project (HEP) vzw brought the right parties (companies and educational institutions) to the table and is seeing to the coordination.
HEP chairman Luc Vierendeels: "Together we are investing in the installation and maintenance of cold stores in the buildings of the diocese. Frozen food transported from Kinshasa to the region is stored in the cold stores. These products are sold on local markets in the main town of Idiofa and the surrounding area.”
Boosting local entrepreneurship
In addition to the installation and maintenance of the cooling capacity, the project partners examined the logistics chain so as to improve food quality. Luc Vierendeels: "We charted a process where the cold chain is no longer broken. A refrigerated truck was purchased to bridge the journey between the capital and the diocese, where the goods go straight into the freezing room. They are then taken to local markets in frigo boxes, for which the diocese has set up a leasing system."
The turnover generated from frozen products has increased over the past few years, which is a good thing for local traders. The HEP team nonetheless believes that there is more to be gained from this process: "The approach can be even more sustainable. Entrepreneurship and employment would really be boosted only when fish and meat products from local agriculture also pass through the cold stores".
To this end, The conversion of the diocese's largest cold room into a refrigerated workshop is currently high on the agenda so as to trade on the local markets but also to transport to the capital.
Competence centre for green energy
But artificial cooling naturally means also electricity. A handful of small scale hydroelectric power plants supply electricity to the region, but they do not operate continuously because of technical defects. In addition, demand for energy will increase systematically as more cooling capacity is added.
At the request of the diocese, HEP accordingly aspires to set up a local centre of competence for renewable energy from hydropower and the sun. The HEP experts want to strengthen the power supply and make it more stable, but also to provide technical training to as many low-skilled young people from the region as possible in both forms of energy.
The rationale is for some to be able to keep the local installations running, while others continue to get further training so as to work in a dam power plant. All the major energy players are feverishly looking for such profiles.
"This project fits perfectly in Daikin's corporate social responsibility philosophy. Our colleagues from Daikin Europe have donated a cooling unit and we are hosting two priests from Idiofa in the Daikin Belux training centre. After an intensive, three-week internship, they were able to install the unit without any problems. It was fantastic to work on a social project that has such a big impact over there. The priests can in turn pass on the knowledge they gained here."
Training the trainer in practice
The thread that runs through the HEP projects in the region is making Idiofa’s economy more sustainable in all its aspects. This requires funds, of course, but companies and educational institutions that are willing to share their technological expertise and to guide the local population are at least as important.
“This is not the first time we are undertaking such a task and we can prove that this approach is already bearing fruit at this time,” the HEP team underscores. “They have already set up a cooling installation in Idiofa since, and have in turned trained a number of maintenance technicians. This team is currently building a second cold store in another rural commercial centre of the diocese. We train the trainers!”
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