The This is our second and final installment of the GiHub project’s documentation work to track the progress of 9 young innovators in their project activities since the project started. This exercise not only serves as a monitoring and evaluation tool, but provides a benchmark of the progress made by the innovators and the partners involved in the project. It is hoped that the report will be the basis of lessons that will lead to the improvement of this initiative inorder to scale up on development opportunities that empower the young innovators to create positive impact in their lives and their communities. This process profiles the final stages of all the progress made by participants so far and features the commissioning of some of the projects which are at a semi advanced stage of implementation.
Valerie Dewah, Nuisance Energy – Masvingo
Valerie’s project tackles hyacinth plant invasion in the Mushagashe River which she plans to use in addressing the lack of access to clean sustainable energy among low income households in Masvingo. To kickstart the process, she has setup a biogas production plant, complete with a compression and packaging system. The innovator has managed to buy a makeshift mini biogas extraction system that includes a brand new compressor, piping and improvised drums to enable the distillation process of the final product. Valerie is also working towards ensuring she has a viable commercial product that she can sell to end users, however, the process still needs some perfection to that end.
The members of the community responsible for collection of the hyacinth plant do not have adequate protective clothing safely do their job. Their equipment is inadequate and dangerous to use since they throw in an improvised device into the river whilst standing on the riverbank without any boats to protect them from potential hippo and crocodile attacks. Also the locally sourced cow dung has to be used fresh, which can often be time consuming for Valerie and her team as they have to remain vigilant in collecting fresh cow droppings to keep the biogas supply chain process optimal. More critical, biogas extraction equipment is still to be acquired.
Treasure Sibusiso Mabhena, Energy Laboratory – Bulawayo
This innovation is addressing the slow adoption of solar energy due to the high cost of photovoltaic solar panels. Sibusiso’s project literally provides light at the end of the tunnel by producing electricity from sun driven convection of lightly ionized air.
After unsuccessfully headhunting affordable suppliers for components to come up with an energy efficient solution, Sibusiso has hit a brick wall. The innovator has had to make alternative plans to ensure that his dream of a more efficient and cost effective energy solution is realised. He has bought a sun harvesting concave panel that is linked to an energy conversion device that transforms solar energy to heat and energy to power home appliances.
Sibusiso presented a sun power harvesting contraption that he bought which is supposed to convert light energy from the sun into heat to power appliances but could not witness how it works since it was overcast. Further, the he came up with an alternative energy convertor catalyser to convert the light from the sun into a usable source of energy. This device, says S’busiso, is far much cheaper than the conventional ones used on the market and will be readily available to the masses. The challenge with the new contraption is that it is too bulky to carry and assemble and is too cumbersome for practical home use, let alone procurement of spares and materials for mass production.
Felicity Varaidzo Bgwoni, Greenture Investments – Bulawayo
This innovator is working on solving toxic bio digester gases emitted at a local sewage plant and her project uses a scrubbing technology to collect, purify and sell the purified gas. Felicity has already identified the project site and is now working on securing gas harvesting equipment which is calibrated to control, measure and dispense the gas from the bio digesters at a local sewage treatment plant.
Felicity acquired a monitoring device from China to test the levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the environment as part of her project. She hopes to lease it out to other innovators and companies in the bio-waste space where monitoring is the missing link. However, in terms of real implementation on the ground, the innovator has not managed to do much to date as there are a number of stumbling blocks. Among them being the fact that she had under budgeted for most of the project items critical to getting her project off the ground. Felicity is now writing proposals to other networks in the renewable energy space for additional funding. The innovator has missed a number of milestones on her project as she realised the sheer scale of the project on the ground against her original proposal.
Lazarus Tinashe Manyonga, Unique Innovations – Harare
Annoyed by rampant household waste pollution and the rising cost of energy for cooking, this young innovator came up with a thermal retention technology. Tinashe’s innovation is made from recycled material, designed to reduce the amount of energy used in cooking. Tinashe’s team is slowly growing and he has now changed his business model from a retail to a manufacturing focused small business supplying major Zimbabwean brands across the value chain. To free up some capital for his expanding business, the young innovator has also sold his 3 tonne delivery truck as part of his new focus, with only a smaller truck available to pick up raw materials.
Tinashe has scaled down to focus his business more on production citing competition from other players in the same space. Tinashe’s major challenge is market access and the cost of inputs for his thriving business dependent on a constant supply of material to manufacture thermal bags. The supply chain is erratic and he needs to ensure that he has the right priced materials when he needs them. However, of all the innovators, his project seems to have taken off.
Patience Majoni, Solar Garden Tech – Dzivarasekwa
Patience is addressing off grid energy poverty, unsafe light sources and missed educational opportunities due to lack of energy access. Her project is a one stop shop solar garden – a solar energy powered hub for distribution of solar products and services. The innovator was very hopeful and confident about her project when first interviewed. However, the second part of the documentation project has revealed a lot of challenges in the planning and execution of the project on the ground. Patience’s project has been affected by the country’s waning economic fortunes and lost relevance to the local community which was supposed to be its anchor.
It turns out that the Kambuzuma market which was meant to patronise Patience’s business has not found traction in her venture. Added to that, the innovator’s cash cow – selling video games playtime to junior school kids has fizzled out due to concerns raised by the local school Headmaster over truancy by students. Sadly, Patience has had to downscale and turn her office into a tuckshop of some sorts selling this and that just to survive. The idea was to sell more solar powered light fixtures and accessories as well as to ensure that school going children can study at all times hasn’t got buy in from the community.
Tendai Elvis Mugovi, Bio Jell – Harare
Elvis’s project seeks to address Energy problems and poverty reduction among farmers affected by climate change. His innovation is the production of cooking jell from sweet sorghum (Nzimbe). Elvis has managed to get a small consignment of the sweet sorghum from a farm in Chinhoyi where he says that the yield is now enough for commercial production. The product is still to match the quality standards s still not yet potent enough to the desired level needed for for commercial success. However, going by Elvis’s procurement of a small hand crushing machine set to process over 3 tonnes of sweet cane, there is a lot of optimism. Elvis also secured a bigger cane crushing machine that is stationed at the field where he grows his crop.
Elvis’s innovation needs a better marketing and packaging solution to make it attractive to the chosen market. In addition, the innovator needs to effectively map his product value chain to ensure that he fully appreciates the requirements that come with running a fully-fledged small business entity. On the other hand, the product quality needs to be improved so that it becomes more cost effective and value adding for the customer.
The final scheduled follow up trip to document the innovators’ progress in November 2016 was postponed until Project Partners felt that the innovators had covered more on the ground since the projects commenced. Ultimately, visits were made in the first quarter of 2017 inorder to cater for travel to all project sites by the documentation team to get a final picture on the various projects expected to be finalized at the end of the year. Innovators will continue to share their experiences and the lessons learnt going forward so that best practices can be replicated as a sustainable model for future projects.
In comparison to the previous documentation period, most participants registered some progress on their projects. However, more work still needed to be done to achieve scalability as several of the innovators interviewed cited the lack of adequate financial resources to go full scale on their projects as a major challenge. Other innovators expressed gratitude for the experience though which they gained skills in project management, marketing as well as budgeting