Innovations for Agricultural Value Chains in Africa
Applying Science and Technology to Enhance Cassava, Dairy, and Maize Value Chains
Right-click to save documents
The importance of science and technology in addressing health, agriculture, communication, and other challenges in developing countries is widely recognized. Donors and others are actively pursuing strategies for increasing overall funding for science and technology. While most new funding will be directed toward building scientific capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa and applying existing technology to well understood problems, donors and other stakeholders believe there may be many missed opportunities for applying science and technology to crop and livestock value chains.
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 order to identify innovative post-harvest management and processing technologies that would add significant value for smallholder farmers by reducing inefficiencies in these value chains in Africa. In 2009, Meridian’s activities focused on:
- Working with contracted local partners to identify key bottlenecks and inefficiencies in the cassava, dairy, and maize value chains;
- Facilitating interactions among scientists, African farmers, entrepreneurs, companies, other institutions, and agricultural experts, which resulted in a prioritized set of 22 technically feasible and potentially impactful innovative applications of science and technology to reduce value chain inefficiencies; and
- Developing concept briefs and strategies for turning the most promising technology ideas into real-world solutions.
The scientists and innovators were drawn from a cadre of people at the cutting edge of their fields. A central premise of the project was that leading scientists from important scientific disciplines have not been adequately engaged as sources of information and innovations for poor farmers in Africa. Therefore, this project aims to apply ideas from emerging areas of science and technology to enhance African agricultural innovations. The scientists and innovators focused on ways to improve existing technologies and on how to introduce and apply new technologies.
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. This project focused on post-harvest technologies for cassava and maize and targeted technology applications along the dairy value chain.
Meridian worked closely with actors in the maize, cassava and dairy value chains in Africa. Our partners helped identify key value chain constraints and helped organize a field trip for the scientists to both East and West Africa. 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 and work closely with local partners to generate creative new ideas that would add value for smallholder farmers, not cost, and to do so in a manner that responds to people’s preferences and priorities and is mindful of the important work by others who aim to improve market linkages, infrastructure, and policy and institutional frameworks to better link smallholder farmers to markets.
The outcomes of this project included:
Follow on activities are focused on further development of the following concepts: 1) Diagnostics for Milk Safety and Reproductive Health, and Aflatoxin (http://www.dfa.org/projects/small-farmer-support.php); 2) Modified Plastic Tank with Dryer Options 3) Stackable Milk Container (http://www.intellectualventures.com/index.php); and 4) Universal Power.
Meridian also developed strategic and structural recommendations to BMGF and other potential donors for supporting and accelerating the commercialization of post-harvest technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa (including, but not necessarily limited to, innovations developed by participants in the Meridian project) to improve smallholder farmer food security and income in sub-Saharan Africa.
Project Partners and Staff
Four categories of partners will, together, contribute to the overall project goals.
Science Team: Twelve people at the leading edge of their disciplines helped generate new ideas about the application of emerging science, technology, and innovation to constraints and challenges in the priority value chains. Members of the Science Team are listed below (titles below are reflective of positions and organizations as of 2009). Summaries of their experience can be found in the Resources box located on this page.
- Robert L. Adams, Principal, Robert Adams Consulting, USA
- Patrick Beattie, Product Development Specialist, Diagnostics For All, USA
- Jeffrey Carbeck, Chief Scientist, Nano-Terra and Chief Technology Officer, Arsenal Medical, USA
- Luiz Alberto Colnago, Researcher, Embrapa Agriculture Instrumentation, Brazil
- Paula Hammond, Bayer Chair Professor and Executive Officer, Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
- Frans Kampers, Program Manager, Bio-NanoTechnology, Centre for Food and Health Innovations, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
- John Morrell, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Yale University, USA
- Moses Kizza Musaazi, Team Leader Technology for Tomorrow (T4T) Team, Leader & Coordinator PISAT Senior Lecturer, Department of Electrical Engineering, Makerere University, Uganda
- Godwin Ndossi, Managing Director, Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre, Tanzania
- Thalappil Pradeep, Department of Chemistry and Sophisticated Analytical Instrument Facility, Indian Institute of Technology, India
- Carmichael Roberts, General Partner, North Bridge Venture Partners, USA
- Christina Smolke, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering, Stanford University, USA
Value Chain Partners: There are four partner organizations that have deep expertise and experience within a specific value chain. Food Research Institute of Ghana is the Partner for the Cassava Value Chain; International Livestock Research Institute and East Africa Dairy Development Project, both of Kenya are the Partners for the Dairy Value Chain; and the Eastern Africa Grain Council of Kenya is the Partner for the Maize Value Chain. These partners, helped prepare for the field trips; identify value chain experts and participants that interacted with the Science Team; provided their own insights about value chain constraints; participated in the field trip; and assisted with the prioritization of ideas generated by the Science Team for business plan development. Additional information about the Value Chain Partners can be found at the Resources box located on this page.
Value Chain Experts and Participants: Additional key people in Sub-Saharan Africa with deep understanding of the maize, cassava and dairy value chains who can: provide input on specific value chain constraints; offer feedback on ideas for new products and tools; be involved in the business plan development; and possibly, product development and commercialization activities. This category will include, for example, farmers, processors, storage facility operators, transporters, aggregators, and others. Additional experts providing technical support were the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Nigeria; Natural Resources Institute (NRI), UK; International Center for the Improvement of Maize and Wheat (CIMMYT), Mexico; and icipe - African Insect Science for Food and Health, Kenya.
Local Entrepreneurs and Technology Adopters: Local companies, entrepreneurs, institutions, and NGO’s who have the potential to adopt technologies that are identified in the project.
Additional Consultants: New Growth International developed a Lessons Learned Report; Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and NRM (WOCAN) ensured gender issues are integrated throughout the process and Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture (PIPRA) consulted on a global access strategy. Conrod Associates Communications L.L.C. produced a video overview of each value chain and brief highlights of key value chain constraints.
The following Meridian Institute team implemented the project.