YOUTHS have developed innovations in agribusiness geared at enhancing food security in the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB).
The innovations seek to address challenges of cash flow among smallholder farmers, post-harvest losses that leave farmers food insecure, labour enhancement and value addition.
The young innovators aged between 18 and 30 had an opportunity to conceptualise, develop and ultimately pitch their smart food security solutions during the annual IREN Technologies and Innovation Programme (ITIP 2022) organised by the Inter Region Economic Network (IREN) in partnership with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation at the Nabongo Cultural Centre in Matungu, Kenya.
In East Africa, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation has been managing projects in Tanzania and Kenya since 1991. The event attracted farmers, youths, outside caterers and cultural troupes.
Tanzania together with its East Africa Community (EAC) siblings records huge post-harvest losses in annual produce from farms.
According to experts, the entire East African region sends down drain more than 70 per cent of its total fruits and vegetables every year. Ironically, the region imports foreign-packaged fruit juice and tomatoes.
"The EAC has adopted a post-harvest fruits and vegetables strategy and action plan to mitigate this loss," said Mr Christophe Bazivamo, the EAC's Deputy Secretary General in charge of the Productive and Social sectors.
"We are proud of the problem solving exposure the youth of the lake region has gained through IREN Kenya's food security initiative," said Ms Veni Swai, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Programme Manager, East Africa.
"Tanzania and Kenya youths are innovative and with empowerment and exchange of ideas, can be very resourceful in solving the food security challenges in the two countries," she added.
Since 2005, Ms Swai, who is based in Dar es Salaam, has been a passionate human rights and media advocate, community organizer for civic engagement and entrepreneurial empowerment, and a political parties' strategist.
Her involvement with the East Africa office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in various capacities has seen her supervise many development projects in Kenya and Tanzania and facilitate various Fora. She is now keen on women's issues.
ITIP seeks to promote awareness and adaptation of smart and sustainable solutions for agribusiness within the region. It further seeks to inculcate inventive problem-solving techniques, scale-ups and partnerships with technical institutions and innovation hubs for structured hackathons.
"Innovation holds the key to helping Kenya's counties confront and counter the huge food security challenges," said Mr James Shikwati, IREN Founder Director.
King of the Wanga Kingdom, Nabongo Peter Mumia II said that food security should be a basic component of any county. He said cultural solutions ought to be incorporated into the fight against the indignity of food insecurity.
Paul Brian, Abdulkadir Siro and Benard Mbatha showcased a Sun Dryer that uses solar energy to regulate required moisture contents for food products such as cereals, vegetables and fish being dried.
"It sends signals to mobile application to notify the user when their products are efficiently dry and ready for storage by ringing an alarm when the right moisture levels are reached and turns it off automatically," Mbatha said.
The system aims at solving drying problems currently being experienced by farmers and reduces the amount of food going to waste in Kenya to less than 1m tonnes from the current 5.2 million tonnes. Tanzania's food loss is about 25 per cent, which occurs during postharvest.
Davis Achimba, Peris Njeri, Victor Ochieng and Faith Wanjugu paraded a locally fabricated fresh fruits canning machine for both small and large scale use.
The machine normalises fruit canning to reduce wastage, control the seasonality use of fruits and increase the canned fruits' shelf life.
"The package is sterilised by heating the cans above 120 degrees Celsius to kill the microbes including spore formers. Fruits are added onto the microbes and a buffer solution is introduced to maintain the constant pH for canned fruit as well as the state in which it was packed," Achimba said.