“desert fridge” © - All rights reserved – greenworks.lu

The “desert fridge” that keeps vegetables fresh without electricity

Posted on 27 May 2014.

For years Africans have been using the “desert fridge,” an electricity-free system that keeps fruit and vegetables fresh for up to 10 times longer than in the open air.

A tomato starts to rot after two days in the open air. A “desert fridge” keeps it fresh for up to 21 days. Also called a zeer pot or a pot-in-pot refrigerator, this electricity-free mechanism is based on thermodynamics. Consisting of two terracotta pots, sand and water, it uses evaporation to keep food fresh.

The zeer is similar to other systems found in regions around the world, such as the matka in India, the botijo in Spain, the uphisi in South Africa, and the garba in Mali. There’s even evidence that the zeer was used in Ancient Egypt and the Indus Valley. In the 1990s, Nigerian teacher Mohammed Bah Abba adapted the process to conditions in Africa to help the Sudanese keep their food fresh. Since then, several studies have confirmed its effectiveness in warm, dry climates.

In the West, the zeer has several additional advantages: an economic and ecological alternative to refrigerators, it offers a sustainable way of keeping fruit and vegetables fresh. For people who don’t eat animal-based food products, such as vegans, it’s a way of dispensing with ordinary fridges all together. The zeer could also be used in commercial environments, such as markets, or for transporting fruit and vegetables.


  • Two unvarnished terracotta pots: a large pot and another that’s sufficiently small to fit inside the first pot, leaving a space of several centimeters between the two.
  • Sand
  • Water
  • Cotton fabric
  • Clay, corks or another impermeable material
  • A thermometer to check the temperature (optional)

The “desert fridge” must be placed in a dry, well-ventilated space.

Product Open air Zeer
Tomato 2 days 20 days
Carrot 4 days 20 days
Arugula 1 days 5 days
Okra 4 days 17 days
Guava 2 days 20 days

Learn more:

- Le frigo du désert, Zeer potfrige project (french)

Main picture: “desert fridge” © - All rights reserved – greenworks.lu