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Meridian Institute

Innovations for Agricultural Value Chains in Africa

External Project Site: merid.org/value-chain-innovations
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Related: Agriculture and Food Security

Meridian Institute received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to bring together leading scientists and innovators with key players in the maize, cassava, and dairy value chains in Africa. In August 2009, Meridian staff organized a two-week field trip to Kenya and Ghana where they facilitated conversations among local cassava, dairy, and maize farmers and processors, local value chain experts, and a team of 11 respected scientists from around the world. The goal of these meetings—and the project as a whole—was to identify out-of-the-box, innovative post-harvest management and processing technologies to add significant value for smallholder farmers by reducing inefficiencies in these value chains. Project participants developed 25 innovative concepts and continue to develop business plans and strategies for turning the most promising technology ideas into real-world solutions.
 
The project looked for opportunities to develop technologies that (1) complement and support other efforts to improve value chains in Africa (including other technology-focused initiatives, but—importantly—projects that are focused on policy, legal, institutional, market, and socio-economic issues) and (2) are technically, socially, and economically feasible. Because of the checkered history of technology-based interventions for rural development, Meridian documented lessons learned from past successes and failures to introduce new or enhanced technologies. In addition, Meridian worked closely with local partners to generate creative new ideas that would add value for smallholder farmers, not costs, and do so in a manner responding to local preferences and priorities.

At the request of BMGF, Meridian then developed a strategy and structure for a potential Post-Harvest Technology Commercialization Initiative that would support and accelerate the commercialization of post-harvest technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa including, but not necessarily limited to, innovations developed by participants in the Meridian project. Initial analysis by Meridian and our partners indicated that there is an opportunity to systematically improve the processes and approaches for post-harvest technology commercialization aimed at increasing smallholder farmer incomes. 


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