By Metohuey Adoglo
Embarking on a journey to cultivate innovative solutions, Cameroon’s very own innovation powerhouse, the ‘Mountain Hub,’ orchestrated a vibrant and transformative 48-hour hackathon. This remarkable event seamlessly converged bright minds, ingenious problem solvers, and passionate sustainability enthusiasts under one roof.
With a resounding theme of ‘Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems in Africa,’ the hackathon struck a profound chord, igniting boundless creativity and a shared sense of purpose among participants.
At the helm of this visionary initiative is Martin Elonge, the Director of Research and Development at Mountain Hub. This edition of Dreams Talks delves into the intricacies of the hackathon’s inspiration, its unfolding impact, and the significance it holds for Africa’s sustainable future.
The central query emerges –How does this extraordinary convergence of minds not only envision a greener tomorrow but also sow the seeds for its realization?
Dreams Talks: Can you share some highlights of the recent hackathon on sustainable agriculture and food systems? What were the main objectives, and how did participants contribute to these goals?
Martin Elonge: Foremost to the highlights is that this was the first 48-hour hackathon ever in Kumba and by Mountain Hub. The Green City of Kumba had the dazzling opportunity to witness and participate in a one-of-a-kind tech event at such an intense level. The concept was all new in the city and the participants.
The hackathon had (7) Seven key objectives ofcourse within context sustainable practices
- Promoting Sustainability through developing innovative solutions that promote sustainable practices in agriculture.
- Enhancing Food Systems.
- Encouraging collaboration amongst participants from diverse backgrounds to address agricultural challenges.
- Fostering Innovation through the stimulation of creative thinking.
- Supporting Entrepreneurship.
- Creating Networking Opportunities.
- Inspiring Community Engagements towards sustainable practices.
Dreams Talks: Innovation often stems from collaboration. How did the hackathon foster collaboration among innovators, problem solvers, and sustainability enthusiasts in tackling challenges within African agriculture and food systems?
Martin Elonge: Absolutely! Like the African saying goes “a single hand cannot tie a bundle”. The hackathon brought together various stakeholders in tech and agriculture from both the private and public sectors in Cameroon. Ten teams made up of tech engineers, designers, business strategists, agricultural experts formed the core hacking teams. Equally, the government of Cameroon took particular interest in the Green Hackathon in Kumba.
Notably, the Minister of Mines, Industry and Technological Development in Cameroon sent his representative who was present from the start to the end of the event, in the person of the Divisional Delegate of the same Ministry for Meme, Mr. Ebai Ebob Ebot. Other government and local government collaborators who were part of the event included: The Mayor of Kumba 1 Council, Br. Eseme E. Moses, the Divisional Delegate of Agriculture for Meme, Mr. Nchidia Asong Daniel and our host Senator Nfon Mukete IV Ekoko, the Paramount Ruler of the Bafaw, Kumba.
These stakeholders each played and play important roles in the agriculture and food systems ecosystem in Kumba and Cameroon at large at varied levels. So, this is what collaboration looked like for the Green Hackathon in Kumba.
Dreams Talks: Given the time constraints of a 48-hour hackathon, could you provide insights into some of the most impressive or unexpected solutions that participants developed to address sustainability issues in agriculture?
Martin Elonge: I must say that everything we encountered during this 48-hr hackathon in Kumba was ‘unexpected’ especially coming from the Kumba based teams, and they were really impressive.
The first that comes to mind on this is team 5- Regenerative hub. Their solution focused on valorizing waste as an alternative and affordable source of protein (fresh waste) for feed formulation. Through this process, high levels of protein are produced through a non-conventional feed ingredient, maggot, the larva stage of the housefly, Musca domestica. This would go a long way to cut down on the cost of increased prices of livestock feed.
Also, the Rural Transformers, team 8, put up a spectacular solution. They engaged in the production of highly nutritive hydroponic fodders to reduce the cost of feeding fish by 60% thus scaling up production.
By so doing, fish could be available in the market at lower prices. And the fodders will also help in clearing the pond waste products produced by the fishes. All the solutions as earlier mentioned were quite impressive. Team CODEC, winners of the 1st Prize presented a transformative farm management system called “Agrophase”.
Dreams Talks: Beyond the event itself, what mechanisms or plans has Mountain Hub put in place to support the further development and implementation of the innovative solutions that emerged from the hackathon?
Martin Elonge: The hackathon serves as an idea generation ground, where solutions spring from. In building these solutions into usable products and services, Mountain Hub has designed an incubation lab. Participants from the hackathon get to enroll with the incubation lab where they benefit from extensive support on their initiatives.
There is also the Spring-Up venture studio that Mountain Hub runs. Here such initiatives receive venture building support on business development, product development, accounting and book keeping as need be, marketing the solutions and what have you.
To note, the prizes that the winners received at the end of the Green Hackathon in Kumba are subdivided as follows (for instance for the first prize): Wholesome Prize is 9,000 USD (Cash- 1000 USD; 4000 USD – Business Incubation 3-6 months; and 4000 USD – Product and Brand Design). This applies for all three winners.
Dreams Talks: Sustainability requires a long-term perspective. How does Mountain Hub envision tracking the progress and impact of the solutions generated during the hackathon in terms of enhancing agriculture and food systems sustainability in Africa?
Martin Elonge: One way to track these solutions to guarantee their full implementation is by working with the innovators in our business incubation lab. Equally, Mountain Hub continues to curate its network of development partners to provide the necessary long-term development and expansion of the use of these solutions in Cameroon and Africa at large, notably the Ministry of Mines, Industry and Technological Development, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Silicon Mountain community in Cameroon, MTN Momo Cameroon and others.
Dreams Talks: Hackathons often act as catalysts for ongoing projects. Are there any success stories from previous hackathons organized by Mountain Hub that have evolved into sustainable initiatives? How do you plan to replicate such successes with the outcomes of this recent hackathon?
Martin Elonge: So far, Mountain Hub has organized three major hackathons under its CITY Hack project: Green Hack Buea on Waste Management in 2022, Green Hack Yaounde on Fighting Plastic Pollution in July 2023, and Green Hack Kumba on Agriculture and Food Systems in August 2023.
The leading solution that emerged from the Green Hack in Yaounde focuses on transforming plastic waste into pavement blocks. We have engaged and are still engaging the necessarily resources to ensure that this solution grows into a mega company with the ability to absorb as much plastic waste in Cameroon for its production and use.
I must point out here that these hackathons and solution generations are somewhat new in Cameroon, and this has been going on for just under a year. It is only prudent to give time a chance for the full development and implementation of these successes.
Mountain Hub’s hackathon on sustainable African agriculture stands as a testament to collaborative potential. The participants’ dedication and the event’s ethos harmonized into an ode to positive change—a reminder that innovation, when united with a shared vision, can illuminate pathways to a greener, more equitable future.
Dreams Talks Conclusion
In the wake of the enlightening exchange with Martin Elonge, Director of Research and Development at Mountain Hub, the transformative power of collaboration and innovation in reshaping Africa’s agricultural landscape shines brightly.
From pioneering solutions that valorize waste to hydroponic breakthroughs, the hackathon’s impact reverberates far beyond its 48-hour span. As these initiatives take root, the question beckons: How can this momentum be harnessed to not only cultivate sustainable practices but also inspire a continent-wide movement towards a nourished and thriving future?
— Africanian News (@africaniannews) July 3, 2023