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Grand Challenges is a family of initiatives fostering innovation to solve key global health and development problems. Each initiative is an experiment in the use of challenges to focus innovation on making an impact. Individual challenges address some of the same problems, but from differing perspectives.


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Challenges: Women Farmers
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Vaibhav Tidke, Institute of Chemical Technology (Mumbai, Maharashtra, India)
Nov 1, 2013

Vaibhav Tidke of the Institute of Chemical Technology in India will design and test a low-cost movable dryer called CassavaTech to easily and quickly dry large quantities of cassava, which is a major staple crop grown by women smallholder farmers. The majority of harvested cassava is dried to form flour and chips, but traditional hand drying methods take between five and fifteen days, which limits time for other activities. CassavaTech will reduce the drying time to only eight hours and will optimize the design and build a prototype to evaluate performance in the laboratory and using women farmers in the field.

Water Irrigation Pump Built from Automobile Components

Brian Lilly, Ergo-Tech, Incorporated (Itasca, Illinois, United States)
Nov 1, 2013

Brian Lilly of Ergo-Tech Inc. in the U.S. will design and build a water irrigation pump from inexpensive and widely available automobile parts to decrease labor and increase production of women smallholder farmers in Africa. Irrigation is one of the most time-consuming and labor-intensive activities of women farmers. Making an irrigation system from automobile parts is useful because the parts are well tested and mass-produced in Africa, and expertise on their repair and maintenance is readily available. Lilly will build an irrigation system from automobile parts using different designs for the pump and battery charger components, and test the interchangeability of different parts. Once the design is finalized, he will build 10 machines and test them in Africa to evaluate performance.

Anemia and Women Smallholder Farmers

Carmine Bozzi, Akeso, LLC (Seattle, Washington, United States)
Oct 25, 2013

Carmine Bozzi of Akeso Associates in the U.S., along with Maurice Masoda of Heal Africa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, will test the effect of treating hookworm infections in women smallholder farmers in the Democratic Republic of Congo on disease prevalence, iron status, and capacity for labor over a 12-month period. Hookworm infections are endemic in many regions, and infection rates can reach 50% of the population. Hookworms reside in the intestinal wall where they mediate blood loss causing iron deficiency and anemia, which is exacerbated in women due to menstrual blood loss and iron demands during pregnancy. This anemia in turn leads to reduced aerobic work capacity, therefore successful treatment of these infections could result in significant gains in labor productivity.

Determining Perceptions of Smallholder Women Farmers

Louiza Duncker, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Pretoria, South Africa)
Oct 23, 2013

Louiza Duncker of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa will evaluate the perception of labor by women smallholder farmers in South Africa and their need of labor-saving efforts, in order to guide the development of an effective labor-saving practice or device. Current labor-saving efforts are often driven by supply, without a full understanding of the needs of the users. They will identify measurable variables, such as time, to generate questionnaires to capture more broadly the perception of labor in a study group of smallholder farmers in three diverse regions of South Africa. They will also determine the farmers' needs for and knowledge and perception of labor-saving, and use this to identify an appropriate tool or practice. The results could be used to develop guidelines for wider application of their approach.

Transformative Tools for Women Smallholder Farmers

Alexander Moseson, Drexel University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States)
Oct 23, 2013

Alexander Moseson of Drexel University and Tyler Valiquette of Catapult Design in the U.S. will optimize the design and promote the local implementation of planting and weeding tools that increase productivity and reduce labor of smallholder rice farmers in Asia. They will refine their design for easier manufacturing, and locally establish production and maintenance centers. They will also develop a local social entrepreneurship business plan to promote widespread adoption by farmers in South Asia, with a view to expanding to other regions and crops.

Stored Energy Solar Stove Technology

Derek Dunn-Rankin, University of California, Irvine (Irvine, California, United States)
Oct 22, 2013

Derek Dunn-Rankin of the University of California, Irvine in the U.S. will refine the design of an energy storage device that collects and stores solar energy to enable indoor or evening cooking in developing countries. Traditional stoves use wood or animal dung as an energy source, which are labor-intensive methods, environmentally unfriendly, and potentially deleterious to health. The storage device consists of an insulated box containing potassium nitrite and sodium nitrite, which undergo a solid-to-liquid phase transition at a certain temperature. During re-solidification, the stored energy is slowly released to provide a stable heat source that can be used to cook foods such as bread and rice. They will work to optimize the design to improve performance and reduce the cost of the device, in order to move towards mass production.

Moma's Farm

Mustafa Ojonuba Jibrin, Ahmadu Bello University (Zaria, Nigeria)
Oct 21, 2013

Mustafa Ojonuba Jibrin from Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria will produce a participatory reality TV show to promote the use of draught animals to help female farmers in Nigeria with ploughing, ridging, and weeding. Female farmers are far less likely to use draught animals for farming as they have less access than male farmers, and lack skills and confidence, and it is considered culturally unacceptable for women to use them. As television and social media are widely available in Nigeria, he will develop a reality show using male and female participants with incentives to encourage public voting and thereby viewing, to promote female use of draught animals and increase cultural acceptance of the practice.

Water Catchment, Storage and Irrigation for Women Farmers

Rachel Hess, Mennonite Economic Development Associates (Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States)
Oct 21, 2013

Rachel Hess of the Mennonite Economic Development Associates in the U.S. will work in Ghana to test different models of water catchment and storage and irrigation systems to promote dry season cultivation in small farms in the north part of the country. Food production by women farmers in Ghana's northern savannah region is restricted to a single season of rainfall and is not sufficient to circumvent malnutrition. Low-cost water storage systems are available, but need to be brought to these rural areas and adapted to their needs and capabilities. They will recruit users to evaluate four models for ease of assembly and use, and select at least two to evaluate performance in 15-20 households, and do cost-benefit analyses.

The Use of a New Technology of Planting Based on Seed Tape

Mateus Marrafon, Instituto Kairós (Nova Lima, São Paulo, Brazil)
Oct 18, 2013

Mateus Marrafon and colleagues from Instituto Kairós in Brazil will produce a new system for planting seeds using biodegradable strips of paper to increase productivity and decrease time and labor costs for smallholder farmers in Africa. The seeds are attached to the tape at regular intervals, which improves growth, and the tape physically protects them from pests and high temperatures. They will generate tape prototypes for both manual and animal sowing, and test their performance in the laboratory and in the field. They will also teach individuals how to manufacture and use the seed tape.

A Human Powered Precision Seeder

Ricardo Capúcio de Resende, Universidade Federal de Viçosa (Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil)
Oct 17, 2013

Ricardo Capúcio de Resende of Universidade Federal de Viçosa in Brazil will design and test a new machine to enable women smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to more efficiently and effectively plant seeds. He has designed a new seeder concept using only two rotating parts, which is light, easy to use and maintain, and can simultaneously plant two crops. He will query local manufacturers and users to further develop the design, and then produce prototypes that will be bench- and field-tested for manufacturability and performance. The results will be used to produce the final seeder design, and this design concept could be applied to other agricultural machines.

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is part of the Grand Challenges partnership network. Visit www.grandchallenges.org to view the map of awarded grants across this network and grant opportunities from partners.