Disrupting the status quo – how the agro-technology innovation fund fueled prosperity for entrepreneurs and farmers in Nigeria

This year for World Creativity and Innovation Day on April 21st, we’re pleased to highlight an inspiring look into how MEDA’s Nigeria WAY farmer and women entrepreneur clients are innovating and building resilient and stronger farms and businesses. The Nigeria WAY project also aligns well with this day’s connection to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal # 8- Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Nigeria WAY’s Innovation Fund helps its clients plant seeds of innovation

Innovation is a seed that can blossom into increased skills, productivity, and prosperity. The Nigeria WAY project prides itself on helping its clients plant these seeds for themselves. It provides improved access to technology and innovative processing techniques for clients in Nigeria’s Bauchi state, including Direct Price Discounts and Business Development Services. These tools support women and youth entrepreneurs by providing them with improved access to equipment and training for their businesses.

Above: Women entrepreneurs making enquiries on clean cookstoves and briquettes at a technology fair

Nigeria WAY uses an Innovation Fund (A seed funding between $80 to $400 USD awarded to entrepreneurs to promote fledgling ideas, products, or services along MEDA target value chains) to stimulate and encourage the local fabrication of technologies and innovative services that address the technology needs of women’s businesses. The WAY project created the Innovation Steering Team, which includes representatives from tertiary academic institutions, technology incubation, skill acquisition centers, and the informal fabrication and artisan sector. These innovations guided the formation of the innovation team.

Interestingly, it became clear that the technological innovations came from artisans and fabricators and not from academic institutions. In response, the WAY project designed innovation fair programs that brought together women entrepreneurs, fabricators, financing institutions, and other stakeholders to interact and exchange ideas about agro-processing and technology fabrication. These fairs have transformed the agro-processing sector in Bauchi by providing new market niches for fabricators, platforms for women to give feedback information that informs technology design and fabrication and reducing time and labor costs for women agro-processors.

Innovation Fairs stimulated the creation of new technologies for women entrepreneurs

As a result of these fairs, new processing technologies were created and conventional technologies were redesigned based on feedback from women entrepreneurs. Some of these innovations include the Tofu Presser which reduced waste and women entrepreneurs’ labor costs while improving tofu processing hygiene standards. Other innovations that were created included new methods of perforating sieve bottom technology, which reduced the cost of the technology by 29% and increased its adoption by women rice processors. Newer and improved planter technologies were also created, which reduced the cost, time, and energy used in planting. These innovations paid off for women entrepreneurs: when women entrepreneurs adopt these technologies, they make more efficient use of resources like water and fuel, create a higher finished product quality, reduce their time and labor costs, and enjoy a better return on investment.

Innovation fund awardees stated that the innovation prize had supported them in buying working tools and raw materials to keep up with the new market niche they’ve created by interacting with agro-processors at the innovation fairs. A few other awardees also received national recognition and success in other exhibitions organized by the Nigerian Government. To extend this collaboration to academic and research institutions, the WAY project staff liaised with academic institutions to bridge the gap between local, and rural agro-processors, fabricators, and the technical innovations from these institutions.

Above: Fabricators during a competition to optimise the production of the Sieve bottom used in rice processing

Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi wins funding to support farming innovation

Recently, the Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi was chosen among Nigeria’s twelve higher learning institutions to receive the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) of 1 billion Naira ($2.4 million USD) to promote its Centre of Excellence for Integrated Farming Systems. 1 It reached out to MEDA after several recommendations to collaborate in transforming agricultural systems in Bauchi state. This collaboration will provide opportunities for the diffusion of innovations, ideas, and information exchange between academic institutions, rural agro-processors, and other technical stakeholders in the MEDA target value chain.

Overall, innovation can do wonders: it can drive business growth and create stronger and more agile economies. Nigeria WAY supports its clients to plant these seeds of innovation to grow resilient and robust businesses and livelihoods.

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