Since winning an innovation contest back in 2014, Jeffrey Appiagyei has made it his goal to change agricultural mechanization education and training for manufacturers across Africa.
He wants to make it possible for local entrepreneurs to manufacture agricultural equipment that will make it easier for farmers to modernize their production, reduce post-harvest loss and ultimately improve food security across Ghana and continent.
“I want to change things at the national level,” Appiagyei said. “I want young people to see the potential of the huge African market and the vast space available for locally produced, high-quality agricultural equipment. To accomplish sweeping change in the technological ability of a community or country to support its entire agricultural value chain, local innovation and machinery fabrication is essential.”
In partnership with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Soybean Value Chain Research, the 22-year-old CEO of Sustainable African Youth Enterprise and Technologies (SAYeTECH) is working to create and provide training programs for young engineers, equipment fabricators and vocational schools in Ghana.
When the Feed the Future Soybean Innovation Lab began working in Ghana in 2014, it saw a pressing need for the use of mechanized crop threshers to relieve the huge burden on women and youth who manually thresh crops with sticks to dislodge grain. This is an arduous task that is physically difficult and time-consuming.
The Innovation Lab held a contest between three U.S. and three Ghanaian universities for students to develop a thresher that local blacksmiths could make at a manageable price for smallholder farmers in Ghana. Appiagyei, a 2017 graduate of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, was one of the winners of the contest and turned that success into a career and a mission.
Since 2018, SAYeTECH and the Feed the Future Soybean Innovation Lab have hosted crop thresher fabrication training programs in Ghana, Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi, with additional training soon to be held in Rwanda, Ethiopia and Kenya. Each machine produced by program participants has the potential to serve 200 farmers and to reduce what used to take two weeks of manual threshing per acre of crop to only four hours of labour with these mechanized multi-crop threshers.
The manufacturers with whom SAYeTECH and the Feed the Future Soybean Innovation Lab work don’t often have opportunities to engage in formal education or training, so these programs are an important way to bring new ideas and techniques to practitioners in the field. SAYeTECH and the Feed the Future Soybean Innovation Lab partner with a local host institution to provide the thresher manufacturing training to young adults.
Appiagyei dreams of sparking governments to overhaul their vocational education systems so that students can graduate with the ability to develop and manufacture useful products that will advance agriculture-led growth.
Through the drive of young people like Appiagyei helping other young people gain skills and technological understanding, African agriculture can move toward the increased level of mechanization needed to support greater productivity and global food security.
Feed the Future is a U.S. Government initiative addressing the root causes of global hunger & poverty to improve food security and nutrition around the world.