ClimateAction-Preneurship- the Innovative Climate Action approach to delivering affordable value-added solutions in Africa

ClimateAction-Preneurship- the Innovative Climate Action approach to delivering affordable value-added solutions in Africa


By Dr. Richard Munang and Steffi Maingi



Agriculture is not just about production alone but the entire value chain. Across the entire continent production is where focus has been for a very long time. This has been a miss opportunity as value addition to expand the entire agro value chain has been the biggest missing link. Affordable value addition solutions are therefore an urgent need for agro-value chain actors across Africa with Kenya included. In Kenya for example, annual postharvest losses reach up to $1.5 billion. Reversing these losses translates to not only enhanced food security but increased income opportunities for farmers and diverse additional income opportunities for solutions providers. Lack of value addition, including poor storage and handling, is among leading causes of these losses, which spread across diverse value chains – be it cereals, fruits / vegetables, tubers. Among leading solutions to these losses are mechanical solar dryers – which when designed correctly, can effectively dehydrate diverse agricultural produce to less than 12% moisture content, a threshold that is critical to prevent multiplication of bacteria which accentuates spoilage, and which is difficult to achieve through traditional open air/sun drying. In addition, these solar dryers deliver this much needed solution without piling on emissions which exacerbating climate change. Climate change is responsible for up to 55% yield losses in Kenya. 


SOLAR DRYERS: A TIMELY YOUTH CLIMATE ACTION ENTERPRISE SOLUTION


Through several iterations, EBAgroPamoja a youth climate action solution enterprise which leverages on  Innovative Volunteerism  structured guidance where youth retool their skills  to drive climate action, has developed solar dryers that are leading in recouping losses on diverse value chains without piling Kenya’s net emissions. The design follows proven solar dryer designs that have revolutionised the way farmers dealing in perishable products – be it tomato, pepper, vegetable and cassava - view market days. While previously, end of market days meant counting losses, where surplus product is sold hurriedly at a fraction of its fair price and the reminder left to rot, solar dryers have proven to be a game changer. Perishables like fruits and vegetables that are unsold at the end of a market day are simply dehydrated and converted to dried product, as an alternative product line. This dehydration means extension of shelf life of perishables by up to a year. Which enables farmers to charge up to 30times more for their dried produce in the off season when demand is at peak.

In Kenya, this  Innovative Volunteerism youth led EBAgroPamoja solar dryers were first tested on rice farmers. Rice is the third most important staple food in Kenya. Use of solar driers has been proven to be 48times more efficient at drying than the business as usual open sun drying. While open sun drying takes an average of 2 days, the mechanical solar dryer produced and tested by EBAgroPamoja youth Innovative Volunteerism actors takes 1 hour to reduce moisture content to 10%. This is much lower than the 14% threshold needed to prevent aflatoxin. In addition, the driers provide the additional benefits of hygiene. Unlike open sun drying, the mechanical dryer is well covered and prevents soiling from dust and other unwanted impurities – including animal & bird droppings. This reduces the time & cost of cleaning rice during processing. 

GOING BEYOND THE SOLUTION: ENSURING AFFORDABILITY


To ensure affordability of these dryers, EBAgroPamoja has focused on three strategic aspects. First, is using local inhouse-trained labour, comprised of youth which voluntarily avail their skills to be retooled in the process of Innovative Volunteerism. Second, is using locally available material. Third, is leveraging on offering on demand, “pay-as-you-go” solar drying service, which ensures that farmers who may not afford to own a dryer, do not miss out on the benefits of the solar dryer service.   

 Through this approach, several enterprise benefits have accrued;

First, several youths have for the first time retooled their skills to tap on value addition. Through EBAgroPamoja and leveraging on Innovative Volunteerism youth with carpentry skills have been structurally guided to improve, refine and adapt these skills to fabricate mechanical solar dryers using locally available material. In less than 2 months, 10 youths have had their skills retooled and developed up to 15 dryers between them. These youth now earn a living fabricating these solar dryers under EBAgroPamoja. They are at the forefront of delivering a much-needed climate action solution but from an enterprise angle – making them ClimateAction-Preneurs. Additionally, youth are not only engaged in fabricating the dryers, but in decentralising them to the agro-value chain actors who need them most.    

Second, using locally available raw material to develop the dryers has ensure a 200% cheaper solution

Third, using the “solar drying centres” approach has increased both accessibility and affordability of the climate action solution. These drying centres provide on demand, “pay as you go” solar drying services at a cost that is a fraction of the value of owning a solar dryer i.e. 0.05% of cost of a full dryer. The centres also engage local youth trained on promoting the solar dryer among local farmers, for a commission of 20% of the collection day’s collection. With this approach, EBAgroPamoja has leveraged on “economies of scale” to generate revenue and afford to deliver the solution. The drying centres have also been a source of drying efficiency data that is critical for continuous product improvement and development.

THE DRYING CENTRE DRYING EFFICIENCY DATA


In two months of operation, the drying centres have benefited over 200 farmers and generated drying rate data for five different and common product lines in Kenya. The drying centres dry on average up to 30 times faster than open business as usual sun-drying. Mould and rotting incidents have been reduced to zero for all those who patronised the drying centres. In addition, all crops were dried to below 12%, which is the threshold for preventing rapid bacterial multiplication and rotting. 

The average moisture content figures recorded for different value chains for the two months of operation are;

Cassava: 9 – 10%;

Pumpkin: 7%;

Banana: 9.6%;

Arrowroots: 8.7%;

Cucumber: 8.7%;

Rice: 10%

CONCLUSION:


Youth led solutions are needed to drive climate action. The example of  EBAgroPamoja youth led climate solutions  is providing three foundational lessons that are critical to scaling up climate action in Africa.

First, it must be tied to offer an affordable socioeconomic solution to those who need it most. Agriculture employs over 60% in Africa and the informal sector in general employs over 80%. Targeting these critical actors that are the fabric of economies in Africa guarantees relevance of climate action well into the future;

Second, non-state actors are the source of marketable, enterprising climate innovations that are key to upscaling climate action in market economies. In Africa, youth at over 60% of the population are the most significant non-state actor constituency that urgently needs to be engaged in driving market relevant climate action. What they need to get going is to have their skills retooled – where they are structurally guided and inspired to improve refine and adapt their skills, talents and creativity for application to market relevant climate solutions.

Third, longevity in anything calls for injection of the “enterprise” approach. Climate action in Africa cannot be sustained through socially driven approaches. Rather, climate solutions need to be delivered through business models that can create enterprise opportunities in the context of African economies.

 

Dr. Richard Munang is Africa Climate Change & Development Policy Expert. He is the Author of the Book Making Africa Work Through the Power of Innovative Volunteerism

 

Ms. Steffi Maingi is the Founder and Director of EBAgroPamoja Youth Climate Action enterprise which connect the dots and provide Agro-industrialization solutions in Kenya.

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