Friday, 5 September 2014

Zimbabwe Research and Intellectual Expo (RIE) Week, 3rd to the 6th of September 2014, Part 1: All we have is what we have…

Resource efficient and portable small scale rural brooder heating system


This week has been a great week for Zimbabwe’s Sunshine City, Harare. Despite the fairly cold mornings lately, this week we have been warming up ourselves with some “hot” ideas at the Research and Intellectual Expo (RIE) currently underway at the University of Zimbabwe. The RIE is an initiative of Zimbabwe's Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education that seeks to showcase the various innovations taking place in the country's universities and colleges.

I decided to dedicate most of my time strolling through the exhibition stalls, sniffing around for some agricultural innovations, especially those that do not kill the “golden egg goose.” My search today was quite successful as I made a stop at the Midlands University stand and met one inventor showcasing what he calls the “portable brooder heating system.”

showing of the brooder at RIE exhibition
The witty inventor, Mr Chiwishi, shows off some
happy chicks in his portable small scale brooder heating
system at RIE on Thursday

The mortality challenge

.For most rural African families, commercial breeding of chickens could be a viable but yet very risky enterprise. In Zimbabwe commercial chicken breeding has become a popular urban backyard enterprise, whilst in countries like South Africa, it is a commonly large scale commercial farming business.

As a way of broadening income sources for the smallholder farmer rural farmers, commercial chicken rearing could be one avenue to increased incomes. However, some of the major challenges faced by smallholder rural farmers include poor access to markets and high mortality rates, especially those related with low temperature and high humidity. 

A resource efficient and environmentally friendly solution

While urban and more sophisticated farmers use electric heating systems, in rural areas, farmers often use fire braziers where they burn pieces of firewood in an open steel drum. The brazier initially burns outside the brooder until only red ambers are left; then the brazier is placed into the brooder.

This conventional process has negative impacts on the environment and is quite wasteful of the earth’s scarce resources. The heavy reliance of the braziers on firewood means we destroy more trees and, the fact that the brazier is initially heated out of the brooder means that some heat energy is wasted. We need a more efficient and environmentally friendly technology because for most rural farmers “all we have is what we have” and hence we need to make the most out of it. As Ghandi said in one of his famous quotes: 
“there’s enough in the world for everyone’s needs, but not enough for everyone’s greed” 
Mr Chiwishi's small scale brooder heating system is an innovation is driven by the need to come up with a “mortality reducing” and environmentally friendly solution for smallholder commercial chicken growers. According to Mr Chiwishi, mortalities of chicks can exceed 50 percent in cases where prolonged cold spells are experienced and the absence of electricity in rural areas only exacerbates this challenge. 

While the conventional braziers make use mostly of firewood, the portable invention makes use of firewood, cow dung and maize cobs.

a lump of cow dung burns with sacks of more
A lump of cow dung burns in the “drum furnace”
(i.e. the cylinder with an open cap)
of the heating system. More cow dung and maize cobs
are besides the system.
the drum furnace is where the fuel (cow dung,
firewood, cobs) is combusted.

The benefits

1. An 80 percent energy save!
The small scale brooder heating system is also said to use about 12% of the energy used by the conventional method of the braziers. There however would be need to estimate the level of emissions as well just to be certain how “Climate Smart” this technology is

2. Just wake up once...
According to the inventor, the farmer would ordinarily fuel the burner once before going to sleep and then would wake up usually once just to check and adjust the temperature. 

So in a simple way, smallholder farmers reduce mortality rates, find alternative income sources and “warm” out of poverty!

3. No fans needed, just the wind will do...
To increase the temperature, the farmer does not need any fan or complicated mechanism. The farmer simply opens the cap on the drum furnace to allow more wind and air to pass through the system. This increases the combustion and heat is transmitted through a round piping element into  the brooder. Any smoke from the combustion is transmitted safely out of the brooder through a little chimney.

The system is currently designed more smallholder farmers rearing more or less than a 100 birds.

Keep an eye on upcoming posts on the RIE...

By the way, on the market challenges, I still have a date with the “rain maker ” who will take us through how he is overcoming the market hurdles by merging digital and physical at “Mbare Musika”, (i.e. Mbare market in English). So we will definitely have that covered in one of the forthcoming blog posts, so make sure you hit the RSS button to follow this blog.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The "60 percent" game changers for youth in developing countries and the "golden egg goose": Power Points for the Youth

The Climate Smart Journey Has Just Begun...


I have been doing some research on Climate Smart Agriculture and the youth and I thought I should just share a few "power" points today on "why the world needs more climate smarts", like you and me. I have called them the "60 percent" game changers and the "golden egg goose."

The "60 percent" game changers

"As the world needs to feed more mouths, it needs to create more jobs; this convergence of events is making agriculture not only an option for youth employment and entrepreneurship, but a very viable one"
In my research I bumped into three 60 percent statistics that point to possible game changers for the youth in developing countries. I have summarized them in the phrase above and I call them the three "60 percent" game changers.

Food demand growing by 60 percent

Picture by Mabel Hungwe
First, it is estimated that agricultural production will have to increase by 60 percent by 2050 to satisfy the expected demands for food and feed.

Youth make up 60 percent of developing regions' population

Accompanying this first 60 percent, is the second observation that 60 percent of the population in the 48 least developed countries, most of which are in Africa, are under the age of 24, and 40 percent are under 15. Sub Saharan Africa for instance, is considered the “youngest” region though the majority of this younger population remains unemployed and their skills and capabilities under-utilized.

Not only 60 percent of the population, but also 60 percent of the unemployed!

Third, it is also predicted that 60 percent of the continent’s unemployed are aged 15-24 years  and about 40 percent of Africa’s workforce is under the age of 23.

60 percent of total marketed food in Africa is the local urban population

Transporting food to the market: Image by IFPRI

Fourth, it is predicted that 60 percent of total marketed food in Africa is local reachable market for these bubbling young agropreneurs.

Now for today, I will leave the food in the thoughts for the climate smart entrepreneurs to find the opportunities embedded in these "60 percent" game changers. But let me dash to the story about the golden egg goose before this blog becomes too long and boring!

The golden egg goose...

The late Dr Steven Covey narrates an interesting story in his book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." The story which most of you might know, is about an old man who had a goose that would produce golden eggs. With much delight and excitement that grew everyday about the golden eggs coming from the goose; this old man eventually killed the goose to take more golden eggs "out of the goose." But we all know the unfortunate part that after killing the goose, he didn't find any golden eggs in the goose. In pursuit of the product, he killed the production capacity, the goose!

Now I will leave the majority of the food in this thought for the climate smart environmentalists, but here is a short line:

In our attempt to grow more food, feed more people create more jobs, we could easily get carried away with increasing the production, while we endanger our very production capacity, our land, people ecosystems.

This is why we need Climate Smarts, i.e. global citizens who are smart about the impacts of their present day actions to produce (P) on the resilience and capability of communities and ecosystems to produce more (PC)

Winding up...

In conclusion, the youth are the main "60 percenters", i.e. they are a central part of the subject in all "60 percent" game changers. Youth are the most critical respondents to the world's Climate Smart Agriculture challenge.In spite of the food security challenges the world may face today, the youthful population in developing countries can offer a growth dividend for these regions given their dynamic and fast learning capabilities much needed in a globalizing and digitalizing society and economy.

Future food supply relies heavily on the youthful developing country populations and it is clear that agriculture in these regions must transform to meet the increasing demands.According to the WWF Pan African Youth Strategy on Learning for Sustainability :
“it is the youth who will inherit whatever problems as well as opportunities that the current generation of decision makers leave behind, the current young generation is also better equipped and more motivated than previous generations to play a role now in accelerating sustainable development approaches.”