Patron SMACH Foundation Charlene Ruto (right)   at the SMACH Foundation stand showing a beehive and honey made by the foundation to Acting CEO Kenya Tourism Board John Chirchir (left) and delegates during the Africa Climate Summit (ACS23) at KICC, Nairobi on 6th September 2023 [David Gichuru, Standard]

High-level ministerial discussions, trillion shillings money pledges, eye-opening panel events, and revolutionary ideas dominated the just-concluded inaugural African Climate Summit 2023 that started on September 4 to 8 in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city.

The Smart Harvest sampled some of the green solutions and innovations that were showcased by innovators at the exhibition stalls and were in line with the summit theme: “Driving Green Growth and Climate Finance Solutions for Africa.”

Many of the solutions were keen on offering solutions that use clean and natural energy like solar and wind power in a bid to cut down on production of green house gas emissions that have been blamed for triggering climate change. Here are some of the green solutions that may interest farmers and pastoralists in Africa.

Solar-powered cold storage by Swedish Tech startup

According to Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, farmers in Kenya lose more than 50 per cent of their fresh produce (fruits and vegetables) due to post-harvest losses that occur during harvesting, transport and storage stages. To solve that problem that eats into their profit margins, Swedish tech startup Cool Go Green showcased a high-tech cold storage solution that uses solar energy.

“Africa is endowed with abundant sun and we are tapping into that energy to address the problem of food waste,” said Jan Olof, the chief engineer at the company.

Reports show that globally, food waste accounts for almost 10 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions.

Olof said their objective is to revolutionise the cold storage industry by harnessing the power of solar energy and create an environmentally sustainable food preservation solution. The company showcased three cold storage products - a cooler box, a walk-in cold room, and a refrigerator -  all powered by solar energy. The walk-in cold room is powered using solar energy to provide off-grid storage and preservation of perishable food products. Mr Olof said their cold room innovation machine works by tapping sunlight to power food preservation.

“Before we came up with these machines, we noted that lack of reliable electricity and cold storage facilities leads to significant food waste. Our products help to address problem of food wastages that are common in Africa,” he stated. The innovator explained that the walk in cold room can freeze up to 250 litres of water into ice using solar power and when the sun is not there, the ice can last seven days as it keeps the food stored chilled.

Interestingly, the robust cooler box is strategically fixed with tiny wheels to aid in movement of stored food and is charged by the sun.

Mr Olof noted that though the cost of the machines is prohibitive for many smallholder farmers in developing countries, once they set up a factory in Kenya (plans are underway) the team will work on modalities to ensure that the costs are modest for small holders.

“We are already in talks with trade authorities in the Kenyan government on requirements needed to set up a plant here. We are talking matters that touch on location and licenses,” Olof revealed. 

Ghanian Delegate Joana Amoako Tweneboa shows beadwork art by  Memusi Hope Foundation as the foundation Memusi Hope Foundation CEO Rahab Lanoi and Chairperson Lillian Koech  looking on during the Africa Climate Summit (ACS23) at KICC, Nairobi on 6th September 2023. [David Gichuru, Standard]

MoneyMaker pumps

With the rains increasingly becoming unreliable and undependable as a result of climate change, irrigation is proving to be a bankable option for sustainable farming. Farmers who have invested in irrigation are guaranteed bumper harvests in multiple cycles a year and can take advantage of higher off-season prices.

On that background, KickStart company showcased three affordable and efficient irrigation units that promise several benefits to small holder farmers.

Kelvin Chitayi, the company’s sales and partnerships officer in Nairobi and central explained that the MoneyMaker Max pump is a treadle irrigation pump designed to operate through easy stepping motion. Unlike some pumps that are complex to use and set up frustrating crop farmers, Chitayi said their pumps are easy to use, light to carry, and require low maintenance costs.

“Unlike other pumps, ours are lightweight and the design makes them easy for anybody to operate. You do not need special skills to operate the machines,” he said.

On display attracting many delegates was  the MoneyMaker Hip Pump, a hand-operated pump designed to use the weight of the body when pumping. The company also showcased a MoneyMaker Starter pump.

“This machine is easy to operate and set up thus helping farmers easily transition from the use of buckets for irrigation,” the innovator added.

The costs of the machines range from Sh8,000 to Sh45,000 depending on the size and specifications.

Mechanised agriculture

As climate change hits pastoralist communities harder resulting in annual loss of livestock and livelihoods, it is becoming clearer that pastoralism is no longer a sustainable economic activity.

In the recent past, pastoralist communities in arid and semi arid lands have lost thousands of their livestock in floods and droughts linked to climate change. To cope with the harsh reality of climate change and to build communities’ resilience, one of the adaptation solutions that experts are advocating for is economic ventures like beekeeping, which is more sustainable.

SMACHS Foundation a non-profit organisation that empowers young people to lead the fight against hunger and climate change, showcased smart mechanized agricultural solutions like modern bee hives. Charlene Ruto, President William Ruto’s daughter and the foundation’s patron said their goal is to empower youth so that they can embrace mechanised farming.

“Our young people want to farm their own way. They do not want to be on the farm the whole day. They want to integrate digital solutions that can allow them to farm and also have a social life,” the first daughter said.

Food sustainability programme

Pastoralist communities in the arid and semi-arid counties in Kenya suffered massive losses when drought hit. Thousands of cattle died because they had nothing to eat. To avoid such desperate scenarios, Memusi Hope Foundation is working on a food security project to ensure that pastoralists are prepared at all times. The foundation is also working on a project that will see pastoralists being taught about hay management, harvest, and storage.

Dr Rahab Lanoi, the foundation’s Chief Executive Officer said they have engaged a Canadian firm that specialises in hay baling to help with the training and capacity building for the pastoralists. 

The Foundation is also engaged in a food sustainability project that seeks to make pastoralists food producers as opposed to dependents. The food security project which is being sponsored by Quick Mart Supermarket, will see schools benefit from training on establishing kitchen gardens so that they can grow their own food. Dr Lanoi explained that in the event where a school has grown excess food, Quick Mart will buy the extra portions.

“The project also involves working with communities and teaching them how to start and manage vegetable kitchen gardens. We have realised the pastoralists depend solely on their livestock and this is not a sustainable way to live in this era of climate change,” said Dr Lanoi. The climate resilience project will be launched today at Illdamat Boys High School in Kajiado town.

Modern hydroponic unit

World Food Programme (WFP) showcased a modern hydroponic solution which is a perfect way to farm with minimal water. Hydroponics is the cultivation of plants without using soil. 

WFP Innovations Manager Brian Wanene said they plan to engage young people in community-based organisations in informal settlements and arm them with knowledge and skills on hydroponic farming.

From the innovations on offer at the climate summit, it is evident that Africa is equipped and ready to offer solutions to the world on how to transition to a path of renewable energy and net zero.

With President Ruto managing to push for a trillion-shilling financial deal from multilateral lenders and have big polluters pay their fair share for the crisis, the event was a resounding success.