By John Odyek
“You cannot talk of farming as a business without adequate financing in the agriculture sector.” These were the words of the state minister for agriculture Fred Bwino Kyakulaga.
The minister said this as three innovations were selected as winners out of 189 innovations in an agriculture sector contest. The winners participated in the AYuTe Africa Challenge Uganda 2023 organised by Heifer International.
“We have non skilled farming communities. The mechanism of skilling them is not efficient. Without financing in agriculture you cannot talk of farming as a business,” Kyakulaga said.
He pledged that all those who participated in the challenge would be supported by the ministry. The minister congratulated the winners during a function held at Protea Hotel, Kampala on Wednesday 25th October 2023.
Simon Peter Okoci, the proprietor of the smart kuku brooder innovation emerged the winner. Okoci built a device that uses an automated temperature and light regulation system in brooders. He received a cash prize of sh35m.
Willy Katumwa invented a fish feeding technology that automates feeding based on fish needs among others received a cash prize of sh25m
Samantha Ainembabazi emerged third for inventing the Freza Nano Technology innovation that preserves fruits by releasing a safe, organic formulation extending shelf life by 30 days. Ainembabazi received a cash prize of sh10m.
The minister said that last year’s top winners have led the way by creating jobs for a combined 25 youths and serving over 200 farmers across the country.
“Winners for this year should do the same: Let the agricultural sector stand out as a major employer for young people in Uganda, through your great innovations,” Kyakulaga said.
The winners of the AYuTe Africa Challenge in Uganda, the innovators received a combined total of sh70m in grants, along with ongoing mentorship from a team of expert advisors to help them translate their funding into expansion and meaningful change to Uganda’s food and farming systems.
The challenge is an initiative by Heifer International implemented in Uganda in partnership with Famunera, EzyAgric and National Animal Genetic Resources Centre & DataBank (NAGRC&DB).
Other partners include Hive Colab and Youth Startup Academy Uganda (YSAU) that provided business incubation services and RSM East Africa that brought on board audit services to ensure quality assurance and transparency of the competition.
The challenge aimed at fostering a culture of innovation by supporting and nurturing the next generation of agriculture technology leaders in Uganda.
The competition, which was launched last year, provides a platform for agricultural innovators to showcase their technologies and links them to relevant support services to make their products market ready.
“Heifer Uganda believes that the future of Africa’s agriculture hinges on creating opportunities for young innovators to transform the agricultural landscape,” William Matovu, country director for Heifer Uganda said.
“Our aim is to build a robust community of innovators and alumni across the country to accelerate meaningful impact for smallholder farmers,” Matovu added.
This year’s challenge attracted 189 participants and offered an incubator program for contestants to gain deeper insight into how to scale up their businesses. It will help them ensure sustainability and attain financial management skills among others.
Moses Watasa, the commissioner for communication and dissemination, at the ministry of ICT and National Guidance emphasized the importance of the AYuTe Africa Challenge’s focus of supporting and empowering young, inventive entrepreneurs. Watasa said the innovators have introduced promising technology solutions to transform agriculture for smallholder farmers.
“Innovations in technology are key drivers for the success of many economies. Agriculture as a backbone for Uganda calls for creative minds that come up with solutions that make it a more profitable sector,” Watasa explained.
“The winning solutions we honor tonight have the potential to tackle a wide range of issues affecting productivity and substantially boost the incomes of smallholder farmers in Uganda and throughout Africa” Watasa noted.
Heifer International began working in Uganda in 1982 and to date, Heifer Uganda has supported over 6m families across the country through agriculture, environmentally friendly and economic development programs. Heifer Uganda is present in 19 districts in the Central, Eastern, West Nile and Northern regions of Uganda.
PHOTO CAPTION: Okoci (Right), the winner receiving his prize from minister Kyakulaga (Left). Courtesy photos