About the Freetown Market Shade Cover Project
Arsht-Rock is empowering female market vendors (“market women”) in Freetown, Sierra Leone with a climate-friendly cooling solution. With the support of local leaders and a newly established market women’s association, the Freetown Market Cover Shade Project provides an adaptive solution to protect women from the physical, economic, and social risks of extreme heat.
While all of Freetown experiences the impacts of extreme heat, the consequences are not shared equally. The effect of extreme heat is most devastating to outdoor and informal workers who occupy the lowest income thresholds in the city. Market women are highly vulnerable right now, and require urgent resilience interventions. Nearly half of Freetown’s markets have no formal infrastructure or shade cover.
For vendors and shoppers in open air markets, heat health risks are high. Prolonged exposure to sun and heat can cause diseases including heat stroke, headaches, and heat rashes.
Excess heat also makes their produce and animal products go bad quickly, increasing food waste while limiting the time they have for commercial activity.
Arsht-Rock is working with our network of partners, including our Chief Heat Officer Eugenia Kargbo, and local vendors to install shading covers over three outdoor markets in Freetown. The shade covers protect both market women and shoppers from extreme heat exposure and from the rains during the raining season. This project creates cooler markets for vendors and shoppers alike.
Freetown, Sierra Leone is on the front lines of the global climate crisis affecting many cities around the world. And it’s still heating up. The current average maximum of 29.9°C is projected to rise to 35°C by 2030.
As temperatures rise, outdoor, informal, low-income workers will become more vulnerable to heat-health risks. These workers constitute 52 percent of Freetown’s population, and the majority of them are women. By investing in market cover, Arsht-Rock is addressing the unequal and gendered impacts of climate change by protecting the heat-health of one of the most vulnerable groups: market women.
How will the Freetown Market Shade Cover Project benefit the market community?
Expanding women’s economic opportunities
The shade structures expand the daily window for safe and comfortable shopping, giving an estimated 2,300 market women better working conditions and economic opportunities. By improving their income, Arsht-Rock is also safeguarding the financial security of their dependents, benefiting an estimated 11,600 additional individuals.
Direct beneficiaries of this project contribute a minimal monthly fee that is reinvested into the maintenance and long-term expansion of shade covers to other areas of the markets.
Building scalable solutions
Market shade covers are a low-cost local solution that can be replicated and sustained by communities well into the future. The shade covers are made with Danpalon and framed by steel pipes. These structures were designed to be inexpensive, replicable covers with minimal maintenance costs. The lightweight Danpalon panels are waterproof, ensuring durability during the raining season. They’re also semi-translucent, providing shade but enough light to still conduct their work.
The covers also have solar panels that store energy during the day. The panels power the lights throughout the night, allowing market women to expand their working hours and opportunities for commercial activity.
Creating new jobs
The Freetown Market Shade Project is creating job opportunities for local construction contractors and laborers in both the building and maintenance of the market covers. This will encourage community buy-in and the long-term viability of the project.
In implementing the project, the city is working with local leaders, the market women’s association, and the Heat Health Task Force team.
The implementation of this project will be carried out in three phases over the course of four months.