Africa Wealth Initiative (AWI): Renewable Energy Centers For Africa’s Small-Scale Farmers

Africa is home to some 33 million small-scale farms, which provide around 70% of the continent’s food supply.1 Across the continent, 50% of all Africans till, sow and cultivate the land. They are the backbone of the agricultural sector, and yet, the vast majority of them live in poverty. Unfortunately, lack of resources, education, economic inequality, and climate change are just some of the factors that keep small-scale farmers locked into a vicious cycle of impoverishment.

The Nigeria-based social enterprise Africa Wealth Initiative (AWI) has long been aware of this problem. Their latest initiative, AWI Agricultural Venture, creates sustainable collaborations between small-scale, rural farmers and solution providers in the agriculture value chain. Ultimately, the goal is to create a viable food system that uplifts and empowers farmers through the ups and downs of contemporary farming. To achieve this, AWI has focused on a two-pronged solution: firstly, renewable energy for food production (called Renewable Energy Centers), followed by sustainable food distribution (dubbed Farm2Table Marketplace).

photo by AWI

AWI is setting up renewable energy centers right next to farms. Non-renewable sources of fuel, like fossil fuels, firewood, and charcoal, are typically used in contemporary farming practices across Africa. AWI’s renewable energy instead uses agricultural waste as a fuel source. The centers are clustered around farmers who will be able to transform their own agricultural waste to generate fuel, creating a circular loop. The energy is used to power facilities that process the food. As the processing facilities are so close to the farms, produce can be pre-processed and processed quickly, reducing the time between harvest and consumption. With conventional processing practices, produce often undergoes longer transportation and storage periods, which causes food to spoil and waste, and can also lead to decreased nutritional value.

In addition to electricity, AWI’s renewable energy centers can create bio-fertilizer, bio-char, and bio-ash. All of these fuel by-products can be used to improve soil quality, which can yield more produce that is more resilient in the face of climate extremes — and more produce means more money for farmers. Utilizing agricultural waste for electricity generation means that farmers will significantly reduce their energy costs. This is a circular economy initiative, which means farmers also get paid to exchange their waste for processing services, thereby creating additional income streams.

photo by AWI

Clustered renewable energy centers also offer social benefits, notes AWI. By consulting and working closely with farmers, AWI will encourage community empowerment, enhancing resilience and self-sufficiency; the hubs will also offer training programs for farmers of all ages. AWI also points to the potential health benefits: Air quality will improve, as the emission of pollutants in the air will be reduced, and focusing on regenerative agriculture and the use of biofertilizers will help farmers reduce their reliance on synthetic chemicals and pesticides.

With food production squared away, the Farm2Table Marketplace is a concept that naturally evolved to support agricultural commerce. AWI has created an online marketplace hub featuring two technical products: «Farm on your phone» for farmers to get support, and «Farm2Table» for consumers to directly purchase farmers’ produce by subscribing for one-time, weekly, or monthly delivery orders.

According to AWI, all this sets their initiative apart from traditional energy practices and offers a unique and sustainable solution for the agriculture sector. AWI Agricultural Venture is in its nascent stage but has a ten-year plan to achieve a larger scale, starting first in Nigeria before branching out to neighboring countries and eventually establishing themselves across the continent.

Learn more at the AWI site.

Africa Wealth Initiative

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