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ColdHubsIn sub-Saharan countries, post-harvest crop loss is so high that nearly 50% of fresh food never reaches consumers. These losses not only diminish the economic potential of the agricultural industry, but they also aggravate food insecurity, malnourishment and stunting in young children. In turn, poor nourishment decreases productivity in individuals, which is reflected by a 2% to 3% loss in GDP. So far, many countries lack a solution to this serious problem. This is where Nigerian company ColdHubs comes in.

Post-Harvest Losses

The main culprit in post-harvest losses is spoilage, the natural process of decay and deterioration characteristic to perishable food items. While reduced temperatures can slow the pace of spoilage, sub-Saharan countries lack ample access to chilled storage spaces for produce. The small-scale farmers of sub-Saharan Africa who lack such storage face both financial and infrastructural barriers. While 62% of farmers cannot afford cooling technology, 36% do not have access to power in the first place.

In Nigeria, agriculture accounts for 22% of GDP and employs 36% of Nigerians. Nearly 90% of these Nigerians are small, family farmers. Yet large quantities of post-harvest losses pose a tremendous hurdle to their economic progress. For instance, Nigeria is home to the largest tomato production belt in West Africa. However, nearly half of the crop of tomatoes spoils each year. As of 2017, post-harvest losses in Nigeria cost up to $9 billion dollars annually. Meanwhile, more than 5 million people in Nigeria are food insecure. Two million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, and 45% of all child deaths are due to malnutrition.

Cabbage in Nigeria: A Case Study

One company is working to make a dent in those statistics. In 2013, a radio journalist specializing in agricultural news was following the journey of cabbage from farms to markets in Jos, Nigeria. What the journalist, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, hadn’t anticipated addressing was the story of the cabbage post-market. Farmers abandoned the cabbage that didn’t sell, leaving edible food to rot. Ikegwuonu tracked down the farmers, asking why they had left the cabbage and how to avoid such a situation.

In a recent interview with The Borgen Project, Ikegwuonu recounted, “They actually told me that if there was a form of storage inside the market, that it would be very useful to them to actually store their produce and then come back in the next week to pick up their produce [for sale] when there is less cabbage in that market.” It was this moment that inspired Ikegwuonu to develop ColdHubs. The idea: 100% solar-powered, walk-in cold rooms for food storage, installed in Nigerian markets and farms.

How ColdHubs Helps

The ColdHubs business model is simple. Farmers store perishable items in reusable crates provided by ColdHubs, using a flexible pay-as-you-store subscription. The crates then go into a ColdHub refrigerated room powered by solar panels. Each unit features enough solar panels to generate six kilowatts of energy every hour. However, the cold room itself uses up only 1.5 to 2 kilowatts per hour. This surplus allows for refrigeration to continue to run on rainy or cloudy days.

For a daily flat fee per crate stored, the solar-powered system allows farmers access to 24/7 chilled storage that operates entirely off the grid. This storage extends the shelf life of perishable foods from two days to 21 days. Importantly, this leads to an 80% reduction in post-harvest loss and a 25% increase in smallholder farmer income. For the 24 ColdHubs presently in use, some 3,517 smallholder farmers use the service. So far, ColdHubs has saved more than 20,000 tons of food from spoilage. Another 30 ColdHubs are currently under varying stages of construction. By the end of the year, the company hopes to have 50 ColdHubs fully operational throughout Nigeria.

Supporting Women and Farmers

ColdHubs looks not only to serve economic and renewable ends, but social ones as well. ColdHubs aims to employ women for its management and oversight operations. Thus far, the organization has created new jobs for 48 women. Additionally, ColdHubs is careful to maintain an affordable model ultimately aimed to support farmers over increasing profit.

“We designed Cold Hubs from a smallholder farmer from our perspective. I’m a smallholder farmer myself. The design was specifically suited so that the technology and service would be affordable,” Ikegwuonu explained. This manifests in the pay-as-you store model, as opposed to selling cold rooms outright. “We actually take up the risk of building in a cold room, and in three to four years we recover on that capital expenditure. It’s a slow, philanthropic process.”

Why It Matters Now

The proliferation of ColdHubs throughout Nigeria comes at a crucial moment, as farming seasons become more and more volatile. With prolonged heatwaves and an increasingly erratic rainy season, rain-reliant smallholder farmers struggle to raise  crops, predict growing seasons, and sell food before it rots.

“Once you harvest tomatoes, you have approximately 48 hours to sell it. With increased heat, it has actually reduced now to about 32 hours to sell that tomato.” Ikegwuonu added. With climate change in mind, ColdHubs operates with as much attention to its own climate footprint as possible. In addition to being entirely solar-powered, the cold rooms also use natural refrigerants. This reduces their contribution to atmospheric pollution.

Since approximately 54% of the working population in the continent of Africa relies on agriculture for income, ColdHubs could be a lifeline in the fight against hunger. The organization intends to bring its technology into other regions of Africa. As in Nigeria, it hopes to uplift smallholder farmers. “The future for us is to be running close to 10,000 ColdHubs in about five to 10 years, all across Africa,” Ikegwuonu shared. Once ColdHubs spreads throughout Africa, he hopes to bring the technology to developing countries across the globe.

Alexandra Black
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Nigeria
Nigeria is currently estimated to be the largest human trafficking hub in the world. Thousands of Nigerians, most of them women and young girls, become victims of sexual and labor exploitation each year. However, there are a number of governmental and non-governmental organizations actively working to stop this trade. These organizations are focused on monitoring human trafficking in and out of Nigeria, as well as helping rescue victims. The Devatop Centre for African Development is one of the leading human rights organizations that advocates putting an end to human trafficking in Nigeria and provides resources for victims who have been rescued.


Facts About Human Trafficking in Nigeria

The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) reported that human trafficking in Nigeria dates back to the 15th century when European colonists started the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in the country. In 1807, the British Parliament banned the slave trade, though human trafficking continued to exist. It eventually evolved into the human trafficking we see today, where victims are coerced or threatened into sexual and labor exploitation.

In 2019, 203 cases of human trafficking were reported and investigated by NAPTIP in Nigeria. Seven hundred one suspects were arrested, but only 25 traffickers were actually convicted. Despite the low number of reported cases and the even lower number of convictions, NAPTIP rescued 1,152 victims of human trafficking in 2019. Of those victims, 18.4% were rescued from foreign travel, which promotes prostitution. Additionally, of the victims rescued, 80.6% were female and half of them were minors. A 2017 report published by the International Organization for Migration showed that “Women and unaccompanied girls of Nigeria are among the most at risk of being trafficked for sexual exploitation.”

Between July 2003 and December 2019, NAPTIP rescued a total of 14,688 victims of human trafficking. Of the 7,487 total reported cases they received, 3,935 were investigated and 332 convictions were made. Undercover CNN reporters, who posed as would-be migrants traveling from Nigeria to Italy in 2018, discovered that the Edo State in Nigeria is one of the largest human trafficking departure points in Africa. Many of these victims are trapped refugees who do not have enough money to finish traveling across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe.


Fighting Human Trafficking in Nigeria

The Devatop Centre for African Development is a Nigerian-based advocacy organization that works towards ending human trafficking and other human rights violations. The Centre uses a combination of educational and support programs. The organization’s programs focus on informing youth about human trafficking practices, encouraging members of the community to join the fight against human trafficking and empowering survivors to make a safe and supported transition back into society.

Executive Director Joseph Osuigwe started the Devatop Centre for African Development in 2014, after being inspired by the testimonies of students and beneficiaries who experienced sexual exploitation. Osuigwe said his pilot project for the Centre was The Academy for Prevention of Human Trafficking and Other Related Matters (TAPHOM), which uses “training, advocacy, research, media and publication to prevent human trafficking.” The first 120 young people to work under the project reached over 6,000 people in over 30 communities across Nigeria with their advocacy and successfully rescued one victim.

Today, the Centre has over 300 volunteers in 15 Nigerian states, as well as in Italy, the Netherlands, the U.S. and South Africa, said Osuigwe in an interview with The Borgen Project. The three main educational programs the Centre offers are the Anti-Human Trafficking Advocacy Program, the Volunteers Against Human Trafficking and the TALKAM Human Rights Project. Each of these programs trains volunteers in advocacy work. Osuigwe said the most successful project has been the TALKAM Human Rights Project, which directly engages members of the community in multiple ways.

The website www.talkam.org, which also has a mobile application offered on the Google Play Store, offers a resource where community members can report human rights abuses to NAPTIP and receive up-to-date information on human trafficking in Nigeria. The radio station Wazobia FM Abuja 99.5 hosts the TALKAM weekly radio program each weekend to discuss information about human trafficking in Nigeria and encourage citizens to join the fight against it. 

Additionally, the Centre hosts a quarterly community TALKAM Dialogue that engages “stakeholders and community representatives to discuss different human rights issues affecting the community,” said Osuigwe.


The Future of the Fight Against Human Trafficking in Nigeria

In 2018, Executive Governor of Edo State Godwin Obaseki signed the Edo State Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Law. This law criminalized human trafficking in Nigeria and created a legal framework in which human traffickers could be reported, investigated and convicted. Additionally, the law created the Edo State Taskforce Against Human Trafficking in Nigeria, which works towards ending human trafficking.

Governor Obaseki also promised the protection and support of human trafficking victims under the law. Human trafficking returnees now receive ₦20,000 (equivalent to approximately $50) and an “empowerment package” that includes training against human trafficking. Osuigwe told The Borgen Project that the Devatop Centre for African Development is also planning to expand the reach of the TALKAM Human Rights Project.

“We want to activate anti-human trafficking advocacy in more states in Nigeria, so as to increase more action against human trafficking,” said Osuigwe.

Nigeria is estimated to be the biggest human trafficking hub in the world. While the country may have a long way to go, organizations like the Centre and the Nigerian government are working to end human trafficking. Through community-based advocacy work and systemic change, such as the passing of the Edo State Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Law, there is hope for more victims to be rescued and more traffickers to be stopped.

Myranda Campanella

Photo: Flickr

Worms in Nigerian Children

Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STHs) are a type of macroparasitic nematode intestinal infection that transmits to humans through infected soil, more commonly known as worms. These worms typically infest soil when it comes into contact with infected fecal matter, and can directly find its way to a person’s mouth from one’s hands, unwashed vegetables, undercooked meat or infected water supplies. Since STHs become more prevalent with a lack of proper sanitation services, they affect impoverished and developing countries disproportionately more than already developed countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates about 1.5 billion people worldwide have an STH infection. In particular, worms in Nigerian children are a cause for concern.

Types of Worms

The three most common worm infections in humans are hookworms, roundworms and whipworms. Hookworms are the most infectious type since their larva can hatch in the soil and penetrate the skin of whoever comes into contact with it. Infected people with a large number of worms – typically people who go for a long time without receiving treatment – have a high level of morbidity (risk of death). Those with serious infections can suffer significant malnutrition, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, general weakness and physical impairment.

Nigeria’s Struggle

Nigeria is one of the most at-risk countries for communities suffering from STH outbreaks due to improper sanitation in many urban slums and the warm, tropical climate that worms thrive in. There is a much higher prevalence of worms in Nigerian children – especially when they are of the age to attend school. Overcrowding and improper sanitation of impoverished communities are amplified when children attend school without proper waste or washing facilities. In addition, younger children do not have a fully-developed immune system yet, creating the perfect condition for worm infections.

A study conducted in the slums of Lagos City, Nigeria concluded that the overall prevalence of worms in Nigerian children was at 86.2 percent; of these children, 39.1 percent had polyparasitism. These figures are startling and daunting, but there are effective treatments and preventative measures available. The problem is making the methods of control affordable and accessible for people in poverty.

Organizations Taking Action

Organizations are taking steps to bring proper deworming treatment and sanitation to children in Nigerian slums. The WHO has a comprehensive strategy for combatting STHs in developing countries that the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control is trying to follow. Nigeria is trying to equip school teachers with the proper training to administer worm medicine for children in slums when they attend class. This medicine would be available to school children twice a year, or as needed in some cases.  Even children that do not have worms will be able to access this medicine in order to take precautionary measures against future infection. Even though Nigeria’s infrastructure is not in the right place to make widespread and accessible sanitation a reality for low-income communities, administering affordable medicine to children is a great first step.

The problem of sanitation has fallen to international humanitarian organizations like the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). UNICEF has conducted talks in Nigeria to educate the general populous about the importance of sanitation and taking infectious diseases seriously. With the help of the European Union, UNICEF has also installed a WASH facility in a northern Nigerian rural community. This facility consists of a solar-powered borehole that pipes up fresh well water from the ground into a 24-liter capacity tank to store the clean water safely. With further policy development and implementation measures, these facilities can expand to cover some urban slums as well.

The case of worms in Nigerian children looks bleak at the moment, but the ball is rolling with eradicating the worm epidemic. The increased sanitation of impoverished communities and more affordable and regularly-distributed medicinal treatment can very well make the dream of taking worms out of the equation for Nigerian children a reality.

– Graham Gordon
Photo: Pixabay

Nigerian Curling
In Lagos, Nigeria in the mid-1800s, British colonial cartography resulted in the drawing of many inappropriate boundaries across the African region. Nigeria serves as a token example as more than 200 self-identified tribes currently exist in the populous Sub-Saharan country. The three tribes with the most influence, the Yorubas, Hausas and Igbos have demonstrated significant friction since the country’s freedom from British rule in 1960. This perpetual conflict is so serious that it even helped spark an attempt of eastern secession in 1967 known as the Biafran War or the Nigerian Civil War. Luckily, Nigerian curling may serve a purpose in unifying the country.

Sport: The Great Unifier

Beacons of hope still shine over the quest for national unity through organizations that promote cooperation and Nigerian pride. Nigerians universally accept one unifier which is sports. Nigeria’s humid climate might seem to render its winter-sports participation impossible. Yet despite these climate restrictions, Nigeria presented both a women’s bobsled team and a skeleton racer at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. For the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, Nigeria hopes to yield a curling team in addition to its aforementioned fleet. The Nigerian Curling Federation, approved by the World Curling Federation in 2018, is actively making these dreams a reality.

Curling and other sports, in general, have the potential to increase national pride while decreasing tribal pride, the latter of which is a significant roadblock in Nigerian attempts towards national unity. There is a normalization of stereotypes about the respective tribes, which feeds large cultural prejudices on each side. This adds to an overarching sense of hostility between the different ethnic groups in the country, which has historically manifested itself in violence as serious as the killing of more 40 people in street-fighting riots between the Yorubas and the Hausas in 1999. As Rachel Odusanya writes, “tribes can misunderstand each other because of their different worldviews, and this is one of the biggest social problems in Nigeria nowadays.”

Christopher Neimeth, Social Injustice and Poverty

This dream involves more than just curling through, as it contains the potential to advance a much-needed togetherness for the Nigerian people. To dig deeper, The Borgen Project spoke to Christopher Neimeth, a member of the curling team who lives in America but has Nigerian citizenship. Not so long ago, he traveled to Lagos, Nigeria’s queen city, with his father to help the rising club gain traction by delivering curling clinics. Neimeth, whose father has Nigerian origins, is sharing his affinity for the sport bearing the positive social implications behind it in mind.

When asked how he thought sports, particularly curling, could remedy some of the social injustice so tightly wound in Nigeria’s current social climate, Neimeth responded optimistically. He conceded that his upbringing in America naturally makes it impossible to grasp the true extent of its cultural issues, but he still believes curling offers a lot to the country. Through the amalgamating nature of sports, Neimeth argues that curling presents a unique opportunity to promote a sense of national pride, while simultaneously creating opportunities for the athletes through travel, professional opportunities and sponsorships, etc.

Additionally, the presence of sports can help reduce the high stress that is an inherent byproduct of extreme poverty. In a country like Nigeria, where more than 86 million people currently live in conditions of extreme poverty, programs like this are important to sustain hope and positive environments. The Nigerian Curling Federation’s clinics provide a safe space for youth that may otherwise turn to crime or drug use.

The underdog premise behind a Nigerian curling team appearing in the 2022 Olympics could amplify the country’s excitement, dismantling previously fortressed barriers between the country’s different peoples.

Liam Manion
Photo: Flickr

Air Pollution in Nigeria
Nigeria has the largest number of deaths due to air pollution in Africa, while the country ranks fourth for air pollution across the globe. Statistics indicate that in 2016, 150 fatalities occurred per 100,000 people as a result of this environmental issue. The State of the Global Air Report that the Health Effects Institute (HEI) published determined that Nigeria’s air quality is amidst the most lethal worldwide. Atmospheric threats such as generator fumes, automobile emissions and crop burning cause air pollution.

In 2016, The HEI indicated that industrialized countries like Russia and Germany have reported lower death rates than Nigeria with 62 and 22 per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, developing countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have reported much higher rates with 406, 207 and 195 deaths per 100,000 people.

Causes of Air Pollution in Nigeria

Air pollution emits through generator fumes which produce the deadly gas carbon monoxide. Automobiles with older engines are also likely to emit unhealthy fumes into the atmosphere. In households, kerosene stoves produce flames that contribute to the poor air ventilation. The nation creates over 3 million tons of waste yearly and most Nigerians burn their waste in their neighborhoods rather than discarding it, contributing more pollution to the atmosphere. Another aspect that contributes to the air pollution crisis in Nigeria is the use of firewood and coal to cook.

Additionally, indoor air pollution in Nigeria is also a big issue, as the amount of fine particulate matter levels in many households surpass air quality guidelines by 20 times. In 2012, according to the WHO, Lagos, Nigeria experienced nearly 7 million deaths caused by indoor and outdoor air contamination.

Air contamination across the African continent kills over 700,000 people annually; more people die from air pollution than unsanitary hygiene practices and undernourishment. Casualties as a result of the air pollution crisis in Nigeria has increased by nearly 40 percent in the last 30 years. Nigeria has some of the highest rates of unhealthy air quality across the African continent. Overall, Nigerian cities contain the most unhealthy air quality with 10 urban areas being classified on a list of 30 cities in Africa with the most unhealthy air quality.

The Effects of Air Pollution in Nigeria

While developed countries have effective solutions in place to handle air pollution, underdeveloped countries are struggling to handle this environmental issue. Some countries have begun taking appropriate measures to handle it, though. As a result, the number of people exposed to air pollution has decreased from 3.5 billion in 1990 to 2.4 billion in 2016.

The report also indicated that 95 percent of the globe’s citizens are intaking polluted air. In 2016, extended subjection to air pollution contributed to roughly 6 million deaths, all resulting from diseases such as strokes, lung disease, lung cancer, bronchitis, asthma and heart attacks. Air pollution is one of the top leading causes of fatalities, particularly in underdeveloped countries, even after smoking, increased blood pressure and unhealthy diets. Exposure to air pollution also increases the risk of developing cancer.

Solutions to the Air Pollution Crisis

In order to effectively handle the air pollution crisis in Nigeria, it is important for the country to provide regular inspections of automobiles to ensure that older cars are not releasing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. It is also integral that Nigeria removes cars from the road that are toxic to the environment.

The implementation of efficient electric energy will help decrease the need for generators, which produces unhealthy air pollution in households and work environments. However, Nigeria does have access to sustainable energy resources that are capable of providing power to its citizens. These methods are safer for the environment and the usage of them decreases the use of gasoline-powered generators, thus decreasing pollution.

Nigerians can reduce air pollution in the household by substituting fuelwood for biogas, which is a form of biofuel that is instinctively manufactured from the decay of natural waste. Biogas will provide sustainable options for preparing food and heating the household while eliminating air pollution both inside the household and the outside environment.

In terms of trash disposal, recycling methods will be helpful to make certain that people are not burning waste. Additionally, daily waste removal from households will also help to properly dispose of trash, which reduces the fragmentation of waste and prevents odors that contribute to air pollution.

Additionally, factories that are within metropolitan areas follow guidelines regarding sustainable practices in order to decrease air pollution in Nigeria. The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) monitors operations to ensure that these work environments are abiding by the pollution proclamations.

In conclusion, the execution of environmentally friendly practices in Nigeria will help decrease the air pollution crisis in Nigeria that is present in households, businesses and the outside environment. In order for the elimination of air pollution to be effective, the country must pursue the regulations for all Nigerians.

Additionally, it is necessary to inform communities regarding the sources and consequences of air pollution in order for them to effectively take action in decreasing the issue. Furthermore, those that become more knowledgeable of the issue are then able to educate others and persuade the Nigerian government to continue to enforce legislation against air pollution.

Diana Dopheide
Photo: Wikipedia

Economic Growth in Nigeria
Nigeria, a country located on the western coast of Africa, makes up to 47 percent of the population of Africa. With the rising amount of people surrounding the area, there has been a vast amount of poverty overtaking the country. Recently, the economic growth of Nigeria has risen due to many factors such as its production of oil. However, no matter how much the economy grows, poverty continues to rise as well due to the inequality between the poor and rich.

Economic Growth

In 2018, the oil and gas sector allowed the economic growth in Nigeria to grow 1.9 percent higher than the previous year when it only grew to 0.8 percent. Although that is where more of the growth is, the oil sector does not have physical bodies working to ensure that the industry continues to grow. This leaves no growth in the stock of jobs, leaving the unemployment rate to rise to 2.7 percent since the end of 2017. Many hope that the new Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) will promote economic resilience and strengthen growth.

ERGP

ERGP projects that there will a growth rate of 4.5 percent in 2019, but within the first quarter, there was only a growth of 2.01 percent. Charles Robertson, the global head of the research at Renaissance Captial, believes that ERGP’s 4.5 percent target was not unrealistic, especially since Nigeria was unable to meet those projections. Because most of the country’s economic growth comes from oil, there have not been many other non-oil jobs that have made a lot of profit.

The plan not only focuses on the rate of economic growth but also makes predictions that the unemployment rate will decrease to 12.9 percent. With the lack of available jobs, there has been little to no change in this rate as well. Many of the individuals that do have jobs, however, are earning up to $1.25 or less per day, which is not enough to pay for one household.

Inequality

As the economic growth in Nigeria grows, so does the gap between the poor and the rich. With the poor as the bottom 23 percent, the gap between the two has widened to 16 percent. A lot of the high-paying jobs are looking for people that have received high-quality degrees. If one does not have the money to pay for a good education, then they automatically miss out on the job opportunities that are out there. This means, that the children that come from rich families are the only ones that will be able to get the best jobs in the market.

The current government has been running a cash transfer program that provides 5,000 nairas to each household per month, which is approximately $14. This amount is not enough to relieve any household expenses because “less than 1 percent of poor people are benefiting.” Without any increase in money for each household, one cannot do much to decrease poverty.

Although there is economic growth in Nigeria, poverty is still on the rise. Many countries have faced this problem with trying to break the balance between the two and found it has not helped to decrease poverty as much. Hopefully, as the ERGP continues, it will help make changes.

Emilia Rivera
Photo: Flickr

Technology in West AfricaThroughout history, new technology has always been one of the key factors in driving both the economy as a whole, as well as a specific economic sector. New inventions drive new innovations, and as a result, significant advancements are made. Now, technology is driving agriculture in West Africa as well, with both new and familiar ideas paving the way forward. Here are some of the most notable technologies and advancements pushing agricultural expansion in West African countries like Ghana, Senegal, and Nigeria.

Clean Energy in Ghana

One of the keys to most modern technology involves energy: sustainable energy, of course, being among the most ideal (and often cheapest) options. Solar power is making electricity available for more and more West Africans every day. There is also a massive project in the works to create a solar power facility in Ghana. Composed of 630,000 photovoltaic modules, the Nzema Solar Power Station will bring electricity to the homes of more than 100,000 Ghanaians. With this clean energy, new technologies that push agriculture and other economic sectors forward can be powered.

Access to Smartphones

Tied closely with the push for energy is the advancement of the smartphone across West Africa. Smartphone ownership has increased to around 30-35 percent in Ghana, Senegal and Nigeria. Smartphones are an absolutely integral driving force for agriculture and technology in West Africa. With access to a smartphone and the internet, farmers can gain easier and more convenient access to information about local markets and upcoming weather forecasts, improving their ability to adapt to shifts in both the environment and the economy. Not only that, but smartphones also allow farmers to purchase insurance and get other financial services, such as banking.

Technologies Boosting Agriculture

In Nigeria, one company named Hello Tractor is making use of the increased spread of smartphones by creating an app designed for renting and sharing tractors with farmers. Farmers can use the app to communicate with nearby owners of tractors, and schedule bookings for the usage of those tractors on specific days. This reduces the barrier of entry to farming as a profession, and as a result is a massive boon to the agricultural sector. With West African companies such as Hello Tractor innovating upon smartphone technology and the Internet of Things, technology in West Africa is once again driving agriculture.

There are also other technologies which may be potentially transformative to agriculture in West Africa. The more recent advancements in 3D printing may offer another pathway to increase efficiency. In West African companies with less intricate transportation infrastructure, 3D printing offers a cheaper way to obtain farming tools by producing them yourself rather than paying expensive shipping fees. In Nigeria, there is a permanent set-up dedicated to manufacturing replacement parts for local industries in order to provide them more efficiently and at a lower cost. The market for this is expanding as well, as there are U.S firms investing in this technology in the region. The installment also offers training programs for local workers so that they can learn the skills necessary to operate such technology.

Another potential, yet controversial advancement is in the sector of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). In Ghana particularly, cowpea is a crop prized for its energizing properties, eaten traditionally by farmers before working in the field. However, the crop is dying faster each year due to insects. GMOs could offer one potential path to solving this issue and stabilizing cowpea for West African farmers. Though scientists are still in widespread debate about the safety and usability of genetically modified cowpeas in particular, the technology could regardless offer another potential path to advancement for the West African agricultural sector.

Future for Technology in West Africa

Ultimately, the most important and consistent technology for the future of agriculture in West Africa is found in information technology. Smartphone presence becoming more widespread allows access to market data, weather data, financial services, and even access to rental services like those of Hello Tractor. Western Sydney University is also working on a mobile application specifically streamlined for usage by farmers, providing access to many of these services all in one app.

Overall, it is clear to see that technology is driving agriculture in West Africa. With all of these new advancements, it is reasonable to expect West Africa to continue pushing its agricultural sector forward. With solar power expansion, 3D printing, smartphone access, and rental services like Hello Tractor, the informational landscape of West Africa will be transformed significantly over the next several years.

– Jade Follette
Photo: Flickr

mental health in nigeriaThe West African country of Nigeria is home to about 200 million people. Of these, 20 to 30 percent suffer from a mental illness. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Nigeria 15th in the world for suicides. One of the biggest challenges facing mental health in Nigeria is the inadequate number of practitioners and clinics. The WHO estimates that less than 10 percent of those who need help have access to psychiatrists. Additionally, while the global average is nine mental health workers per 100,000 people, the ratio in Nigeria is one mental health worker for every one million people. This could partly be caused by the fact that only around 3.3 percent of the national health budget goes to mental health.

Despite the mental health crisis that is looming there are several organizations working to improve mental health in Nigeria.

4 Organizations Improving Mental Health in Nigeria

  1. Neem Foundation: This nonprofit, nongovernmental organization is doing important work in Borno State to help those who have suffered trauma as a result of attacks by the Boko Haram islamic militant group. In 2017 alone, the organization provided psychological services to over 7000 people in Borno. In order to reach their target of getting to 16,000 more clients by 2019, the foundation began a Counseling on Wheels program which has counselors use motorcycles or motor tricycles to take counseling services to people’s doorsteps. By doing this, they have managed to raise the number of their client reach 12,000 people so far. Besides providing mental health support to individuals, the Neem Foundation also offers training in counseling, trauma care and child-centered therapy.

  2. Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI): Launched in June 2016, this Lagos-based nonprofit focuses on creating awareness on mental health and illnesses as well as helping its clients connect to mental health professionals. MANI has a suicide/distress hotline and is planning on launching a mobile app to connect mental health professionals to people in need of help. The organization promotes its advocacy campaigns online using channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and its website to draw attention to different mental health illnesses or other related topics each month. Since 2016, MANI has managed to expand its work to four Nigerian states and provide support to more than 5,000 people.

  3. She Writes Woman: This organization has made great strides since its inception in April 2016. The organization launched the first privately-held, 24-hour mental health line in July 2016 and in April 2018 added a helpline chat service that has received 6,000 messages to date. The organization also founded and curates Safe Place – a support group where women in Nigeria can meet, discuss mental health issues and get the help they need. So far, more than 800 women have benefitted. In partnership with Airtel Nigeria, they have grown and founded Safe Place Nigeria – a walk-in clinic where young people can seek mental health care.

  4. Love, Peace and Mental Health Foundation (LPM): Launched in 2012 in Lagos, LPM carries out advocacy and awareness campaigns to the youth in Nigeria. LPM also founded and curates Umbrella, a men’s-only support group which meets monthly. During the support group meetings, mental health professionals are on hand for observation and consultancy. The foundation also partners with various psychologists and consultants to provide free therapy sessions during these meetings. LPM also ran the #SAVE campaign in 2017 which encouraged creatives to embrace photography, music, art and fashion to raise awareness of mental health in Nigeria.

By creating awareness and challenging the misconceptions and stigma held by the public, these four organizations are helping create an environment in which those suffering from mental health illnesses do not need to isolate themselves or shy away from seeking help. Mental health in Nigeria is sure to improve because of these and other organizations and initiatives.

Sophia Wanyony
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in AfricaAfrica boasts one of the biggest farming industries in the world. Agriculture accounts for 60 percent of the continent’s paid employment and 30 percent of its overall GDP. However, due to a lack of market information, modern farming technologies and financial stability in smallholder farming, the continent suffers from low farming productivity. With so much of Africa’s development being dependent on agriculture and farming, low productivity rates pose an array of problems for the continent’s pursuit of advancement. These five tech start-ups are tackling these issues and transforming agriculture in Africa.

5 Tech Start-Ups Transforming Agriculture in Africa

  1. ZenvusZenvus is a Nigerian tech start-up centered around precision farming and is rapidly transforming agriculture in Africa. Farmers in Africa often don’t have access to information that could help improve their harvesting yields, and Zenvus is looking to change that with an innovative solution that uses propriety technology to collect data like soil nutrients and moisture, PH values and vegetative health. The information is collected and sent to a cloud server through GSM, satellite, or wifi networks, at which point the farmers receive advice from the program. This data arms them with the best information in seeking the proper fertilizer for their crops, optimizing their irrigation systems while encouraging data-driven farming for small-scale farmers. Zenvus also provides specialized cameras to track the growth of crops, as well as features like zCaptial that provides small-scale farmers with the opportunity raise capital by providing collected data from the program’s precision farming sensors to give banks an overall sense of profitability in farms registered with the service.
  2. M-FarmM-Farm is a tech service app based in Kenya that provides small-scale farmers with information on retail prices of products, prospective buyers in local markets and up-to-date information on agricultural trends. Information is gathered daily by independent collectors using geocodes and is then sent to subscribers phones via SMS messages. Collectors use geocoding to ensure that all pricing and market-related data is being collected from traders that are located in the users’ actual markets. The app, which now serves 7,000 users and tracks 42 different kinds of crops in five major markets throughout Kenya, aims to help small-scale farmers connect directly with suppliers, and even provides considerable discounts on fertilizers and seeds.
  3. EsokoEsoko is another striking example of a tech start-up transforming agriculture in Africa where, historically, many farmers had a limited understanding of market pricing and agricultural trade. Market middlemen often took advantage of this and persuaded unknowing farmers to sell products well below market price. In 2005, Esoko aimed to change that by providing farmers with real-time information on market prices, weather forecasts and agricultural techniques through SMS messaging. The start-up currently serves one million users across 19 African countries, gained $1.25 million in equity from two major venture capital companies, with a study finding that farmers who used the app were able to increase profits by 11 percent.
  4. Apollo Agriculture – Founded in Nairobi in 2014, this tech start-up has raised $1.6 million in the pursuit of helping small-scale farmers get maximum profits for their products and diminish credit risk. The start-up does this through machine learning, remote sensing and the utilization of mobile phone technologies. Apollo Agriculture not only assesses credit risk for farmers, but it also uses satellite data to provide personalized packages specific to farmer behavior, location, crop yields and even soil and vegetation health.
  5. Kilimo SalamaKilimo Salama (Safe Agriculture) founded in 2010, is a Kenyan tech start-up that provides small-scale farmers a more informed approach to weather index/micro-insurance for their land. The start-up uses an app to send users SMS messages regarding weather patterns and up-to-date climate data. This ensures that users can more readily prepare for weather that might be detrimental to their crops. The app also includes a feature that allows users to receive confirmation of insurance payouts through SMS messaging. Users also receive educational messages with tips and techniques on how to increase productivity, food security and crop protection.

Africa suffers from low farm productivity due to an array of issues like financial instability, limited access to modern farming technologies and lack of information. However, countless tech start-ups across the continent are actively combating these issues with innovative tech solutions for transforming agriculture in Africa.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

Education for internally displaced children

Violence or conflict internally displaces approximately 17 million children worldwide. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are those who have been forced to leave their homes but remain within the borders of their country of origin. A majority of IDPs live in urban areas, where they often lack access to basic services, including health care, housing and education. Ensuring access to education for internally displaced children is essential to improving livelihoods and fostering social cohesion.

Initiatives in Nigeria and Kenya represent important steps toward ensuring education for all internally displaced children in those countries.

Barriers to Education

For internally displaced children, schools are crucial to integrating into their new host community and regaining some normalcy after fleeing violence. Unfortunately, a myriad of challenges prevents many of these children from being able to attend school. A lack of documentation, financial struggles, language barriers, physical distance from the nearest school and a lack of education facilities in the area could possibly prevent internally displaced children from pursuing their education.

Furthermore, child labor, child marriage and recruitment by armed forces and gangs are other significant barriers to education for internally displaced children. IDPs often experience severe poverty and, as a way to make more money, send their children to work within the informal sector, thereby preventing them from going to school.

Child marriage is seen as another way to help overcome poverty, as marrying into the host community can provide economic and social benefits. Child marriage is frequently forced onto internally displaced children, especially girls. For IDPs who choose to marry when they are young, becoming independent from their parents may be a motivating factor. Once married, children rarely begin or continue their education.

Additionally, internally displaced children tend to live in poor, crime-ridden districts. They are more likely to be recruited by local gangs or armed groups in these areas. In Colombia, armed groups seek out children because they are able to avoid heavy criminal sentences if caught.

Conflict also negatively impacts education infrastructure, hurting educational opportunities for internally displaced children. Displacement disproportionately affects girls, who face additional challenges. Girls are 2.5 times more likely to not attend school in countries experiencing conflict. Gender-based violence and harassment that occurs at school and on the route to and from education facilities keep many girls at home. The abduction and rape that has occurred in at least 18 countries, along with the bombing of girls’ schools, also encourages families to keep their daughters at home rather than sending them to school.

UNICEF Recommendations

UNICEF recommends several tactics to overcome these barriers to education for internally displaced children. The organization’s primary goal is to ensure humanitarian organizations and governments begin to see education as a greater priority for IDPs. Education is commonly seen as secondary to addressing violence. Unfortunately, when conflicts last for years and decades, waiting to invest in education can leave generations of internally displaced children without schooling.

Key recommendations include strengthening education systems, abolishing school fees to reduce financial constraints and adapting curricula to address prejudices and promote diversity and social cohesion.

Case Study: Kenya

A study conducted at a Kenya school in 2013 and 2014 provides valuable insight into the benefits of educating internally displaced children alongside local children. At the school studied, 71 percent of students were internally displaced. However, efforts were made to provide an inclusive education that strengthened community relationships.

The study found that many internally displaced children were initially apprehensive about being accepted by their new school community. This sometimes lasted, but usually dissipated after a few weeks as the children become comfortable with each other. One student, Jey, told an author from the International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, “I like this school because pupils like me. I don’t have any enemies all of them help me.”

Furthermore, students at the school developed community-consciousness. Many were aware of social inequalities that existed in Kenya. Internally displaced children recognized the disadvantages they and their families faced and were motivated to complete school to improve their futures.

Overall, more schools like this one in Kenya are needed to help bridge gaps between host communities and IDPs. This will improve opportunities for internally displaced children.

Plan International: Nigeria

In Nigeria, Plan International is creating learning centers to provide education for internally displaced children. These centers are created in areas that lack educational infrastructure and seek to support IDPs.

Patim, one of the teachers at a learning center in Maiduguri, noted that many of the children she teaches have lost their parents and require a great deal of support. The learning centers are doing what they can but often lack adequate resources and staff. However, the work being done is still directly benefiting many children. Patim recognizes that many of her students would be working on the streets if it wasn’t for the learning center. Attending the center helps keep children safe during the day.

Moving Forward

More communities and nations need to adopt UNICEF’s recommendations to ensure the availability of education for internally displaced children. Hopefully, recent attention to this issue will spark significant change in more countries, improving the livelihoods of IDPs around the world.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr