The zeer pot, invented by Nigerian teacher Mohammed Bah Abba, has revolutionized farmers’ markets in Darfur, Sudan. Before the zeer pot invention was introduced to Darfur, some farmers lost up to half their crops at daily markets. Without refrigeration, their foods were subject to the heat.
But this nifty invention (see zeer pot photo) has changed all that. The zeer pot is a large pot that has a smaller pot inside. The space between is filled with sand, creating insulation. By keeping the sand damp, the inner pot’s temperature stays cool. The zeer pot costs less than $2 to make, but holds 26 pounds (12 kg) of food. The zeer pot stays cool because, as the water evaporates, it chills the inner container.
The principles behind the zeer pot are very similar to those of a South African wedding basket I received from my friend Sue. (In fact, Sue’s the one who forwarded the article on the zeer pot.) When filled with a beverage, the basket sweats, cooling the container.
Darfur farmers, families and refugees have started using the zeer pot, meaning Sudanese food security has improved a little. This is a great example of how the diffusion of innovations like the zeer pot can shape the prospects of real people. The theory of diffusion of innovation is widely used by high tech industry consultants, but academics have long used it in farming, health care and global development. In the case of the zeer pot, the innovators – women at farmers’ markets – are in a great position to influence early adopters – women who shop at the markets.
I wanted to bring up the zeer pot because people often say marketing is a useless endeavour. But studies of marketing successes and failure are indeed relevant to “more important” issues like helping Africa. If we can get people to use PDAs, then we should be able to use the same ideas to solve larger problems worldwide.
Zeer Pot – Nigerian teacher’s Darfur miracle
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