Cooling Freetown’s markets: A sustainable solution for women traders

By Climate Champions | November 22, 2023
  • Implementer: Chief Heat Officer of Freetown, Sierra Leone (Eugenia Kargbo), and Arsht-Rock
  • Country & Region: Sierra Leone, Africa
  • Impact: Over 2,300 women directly benefited, with indirect benefits to 11,500 individuals

Freetown, Sierra Leone, faces a significant challenge with extreme heat, particularly affecting its outdoor and informal workers who are predominantly women. These workers, who make up over half of the city’s residents, endure long hours of manual labour in open-air markets under direct sun exposure. This not only increases their vulnerability to heat-related illnesses but also impacts their economic stability, as extreme temperatures can lead to spoilage of goods and deter customers.

To address this issue, the Chief Heat Officer of Freetown, Eugenia Kargbo, a member of the Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance (EHRA), in partnership with Arsht-Rock, initiated the Market Cover Shade Project. This innovative solution involves the installation of shade covers in the city’s open-air markets, which lack common roofs or awnings. These low-cost, sustainable shade structures serve a dual purpose: they provide much-needed protection from the heat for market women and incorporate solar panels to offer lighting at night. This not only extends safe shopping hours but also expands economic opportunities for these vendors.

The project’s impact is multi-faceted. It not only protects women from extreme heat exposure but also supports their livelihoods, thereby contributing to the economic security of their families. The construction and maintenance of the shade covers also generate income for local contractors, further stimulating the local economy.

To date, the project has successfully constructed 669 square meters of shade structures, equipped with 40 solar lights, across three major street markets in Freetown. This initiative has directly benefited over 2,300 women, with indirect benefits reaching approximately 11,500 individuals. Beyond its immediate impact, the project has played a crucial role in increasing public awareness about the risks of extreme heat and the effectiveness of solutions to mitigate these risks and their associated effects.