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The East African : Feb 11th 2017
26 OUTLOOK The EastAfrican FEBRUARY 11-17,2017 DEVELOPMENT Women take up solar project, fight poverty A new d≥ive seeks to boost the use of clean ene≥gy in ≥emote a≥eas By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI Special Correspondent F or six years now, Esupat Loseku has known the joy of an income outside of livestock sales. The 29-year-old mother of six instals solar power systems and builds cookstoves in Enguiki village and its environs in northern Tanzania. In a week, Ms Esupat can serve four homes or even more, charging Tsh25,000 ($11) in her village and Tsh95,000 ($42) elsewhere. “People come to us inquiring about solar because they have seen it work well at their neighbour’s home or have been told about it,” said Ms Esupat. Leah Laiza, a widow and mother of five, is a leader of a solar group in Ngarash village and co-ordinates the installation by her group members. “We meet every month with project officials and women groups from other villages to share ideas and discuss the way forward ,” said Ms Laiza. Ms Esupat and Ms Laiza are among a group of women in small Maasai villages in northern Tanzania who are championing the use of renewable energy. The women are part of the International Collaborative Maasai Stoves and Solar Project that has introduced the use of clean energy cookstoves and solar power to the community. The main aim of the project is to alleviate poverty and empower the women. “We chose to use women Maasai women install a solar panel on the roof of a hut. Picture: Christabel Ligami because after conducting a few workshops in the villages, we realised that women were more willing and open to the idea than men. So we decided to train them in how to install the cookstoves and the solar panels for lighting,” said Prof Robert Lange, the founder and initiator of the project. The women, trained by USAid, not only distribute and install cookstoves and solar panels in their villages, they also build them using locally available materials. According to Kisioki Moitiko, After conducting workshops we realised that women were more willing and open to the project idea.” Robert Lange, founder stoves and solar project the project manager in Tanzania, in each of the 16 villages, the women are selected by fellow women. The installers work in groups of five to 10. The women elect their leaders and manage the installations. Women are trained over a period of about 10 days by other women to install the improved stoves and solar panels. “For every installation they are paid Tsh25,000 ($11), which they share among themselves,” said Mr Kisioki. “This is a subsidised rate; it could have cost Tsh120,000 ($52).” The organisation invests about $200,000 in the project every year and aims to connect the entire Maasai region in coming years. According to Prof Lange, the project also aim to promote the use of clean energy in remote villages. “When we first measured the particulate levels we found them to be about 20 times what the World Health Organisation said was healthy. And the carbon monoxide levels were dangerously high too,” he said. They thus designed chimney stoves that would get rid of over 90 per cent of the smoke. They are convenient, efficient, and used sustainably by Maasai women. According to Prof Lange, the cookstoves reduce particulate levels from cooking smoke by 90 per cent, alleviating chronic coughing and head congestion, primarily in women and children. BENEFITS A solar project in small Maasai villages in northern Tanzania hopes to alleviate poverty and empower women through: Use of cookstoves that reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 3.6 metric tonnes per year and save women, who take care of the home 10-12 hours of weekly wood gathering labour. Cutting the use of firewood per week, thereby reducing deforestation. Expe≥ts seek ways to ≥educe food wastage By NJIRAINI MUCHIRA Special Correspondent STAKEHOLDERS IN the agricultural sector are seeking ways to develop post-harvest technologies to cut food losses and wastage in a region where some 10 million people are facing starvation as a result of drought. Even when farmers pro- duce bumper harvests, hunger due to wastage follows often, impacting on the region’s nutritional levels and food security, analysts say. “We are at a point where post-harvest losses should be treated with the same seriousness as national security. This is because it is a strategic tool for food security and a catalyst for agribusiness,” said James Shikwati, director of the Nairobi-based non-governmental organisation, Inter Region Economic Network. IREN is conducting the inaugural East Africa Postharvest Technologies Competition 2017 to spur innovations aimed at reducing food losses and wastage in Africa. In March, the University of Nairobi will also hold the first All Africa Post-Harvest Congress, under the theme, Reducing Food Losses and Waste: Sustainable Solutions for Africa. While the Food and Ag- riculture Organisation estimates that one-third or 1.3 billion metric tonnes of the food produced for human consumption globally is lost or wasted along supply chains, the problem is endemic in Africa. The continent loses about $4 billion in food waste annually due to poor storage facilities, market inefficiencies and bottlenecks in the value chain. Ironically, despite millions Fa≥me≥s in Af≥ica to get quality seeds in new d≥ive By KENNEDY SENELWA Special Correspondent A CONTINENTAL initiative aimed at enhancing food security through the production of quality certified seeds has opened in Nairobi. The African Agricultural Technology Foun- dation (AATF) has established the QualiBasic Seed Company Ltd (QBS) with an initial investment of $8.4 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to be spread over five years. The initiative, an early generation seed pro- duction entity, will supply quality planting materials to small and medium seed companies. The firms will then use the foundation seed to produce certified seeds for sale to farmers. After five years, the firms will be invited to own QBS through the sale of shares. QBS will start with maize seed from Eastern and Southern Africa, with production hubs in Kenya, Zambia and South Africa before moving to other cereals and legumes. AATF executive director Denis Kyetere said operating a functional foundation seed production system could cost a firm $500,000 per year, which is costly for many SME seed firms. Centralised system “Investing a similar amount to operate a centralised system that services various firms would make foundation seed production more efficient, benefiting from economies of scale and the use of the most ideal agro-ecologies,” said Dr Kyetere. It is estimated that SME firms could reach over 60 per cent small farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, but for production processes and the lengthy period required to release quality seed. The minimum is five seasons or 2.5 years in Kenya and up to five years in some countries in Southern Africa. Over $1 billion has been invested in Africa through various global crop improvement programmes including maize hybrids. Unfortunately, the access and subsequent benefits of these varieties are yet to be significantly realised at the farmer level. The Bill & Melinda Gates investment in QBS targets smallholder farmers especially women, and seeks to help them realise the full genetic gains of climate resilient crop varieties. AATF deputy director of Agricultural De- velopment Enock Chikava said the partnership will help ensure that foundation seed is available to seed companies, as well as increase productivity of land, incomes and nutrition for farmers. A new seed production drive targets smallholder farmers. Picture: File of tonnes of food going to waste, Africa continues to be a net food importer, with the food import bill currently standing at $35 billion. It is projected to hit a whopping $110 billion in a decade, according to data from the African Development Bank. In East Africa, it is esti- mated that on average, the region spends the equivalent of 24 per cent of its export earnings on food imports. “Food losses and waste negatively impact food security, nutrition and economic stability due to the huge food import bill,” said Dr Jane Ambuko, senior lecturer and head of horticulture at the Department of Plant Science & Crop Protection, University of Nairobi. $4b Value of food the continent loses annually due to poor storage, inefficiencies and bottlenecks in the value chain. The need to invest in post- harvest technologies is becoming more urgent due to the rising urbanisation and the fact that the majority of countries on the continent are pursuing agriculture-led industrialisation and development. According to Dr Shikwati, as more people move to urban areas, the need to develop technologies to preserve food becomes paramount. “Urbanisation is sending the signal that if we cannot preserve food, we will always be prone to hunger,” he said. It is projected that by 2050, some 1.4 billion people or 58 per cent of Africa’s population will be living in urban areas.
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