Innovative measures against Nigeria quelea bird infestation through Innovate UK’s Open Innovation Challenge

Innovate UK Global Alliance Africa, through their Open Innovation Intervention partnered with Tropical General Investments Group (TGI) (an investor in consumer goods and agriculture) and Iknaia (a seasoned innovator and solution provider) to develop a dynamic and affordable solution that protects farmlands and preserves the livelihoods of vulnerable farmers.

Posted on: 06/03/2024

The quelea bird invasion

The agricultural sector in Africa and other parts of the world is faced with a myriad of challenges. One of the challenges is to tackle the damage caused by quelea birds, which feed on small-grain cereal crops.

The population of quelea birds worldwide has dramatically increased since the 1970s, bypassing traditional deterrent methods like scarecrows, noise-making and other deterrent measures. This continues to pose a significant threat to smallholder farmers. In Nigerian states, the invasion of the birds has led to swift destruction and poor yields, leaving farmers in debt and increasing poverty. In 2023 alone, Kebbi state lost 75,000 hectares of rice farms, impacting production costs and livelihoods worth over N22 billion naira in production costs and N78 billion worth of paddy.

Expressing excitement about the partnership, Habiba Suleiman, Head of Strategic Partnerships, TGI stated:

We expect that this collaboration will birth a practical and impact-driven solution to the quelea birds challenge in a manner that does not negatively affect the environment. Considering the problem is continent-wide and the birds are migratory, we expect that the pilot solution presents a way forward for other countries plagued by this dire phenomenon as well.

Affordability is a key focus, ensuring that farmers’ reality is addressed to foster adaptation and resilience. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce food loss and enhance food security for Africa’s most populous country amid global concerns.

Innovative transformation of pest control

Despite this being the first time, Iknaia is working on a project domiciled in Nigeria, they have expressed optimism.

We hope that our collaboration with TGI could also lead to more product development further down the line. The mass production of the bird-scaring device will help us to reduce our component cost to enable us to include further enhancements such as soil sensors, which will also be highly beneficial to the farmers. With the bird-scaring device we hope to solve a huge problem throughout Africa and other countries, but we see this very much as a stepping stone to creating further Internet of Things (IoT) devices that will be able to monitor water quality, soil quality, and air quality.

– Julia McNally, founder of Iknaia

Overall, the joint effort between Innovate UK, TGI, and Iknaia signifies a commitment to innovation and collaboration in overcoming agricultural challenges. The pilot solution, born from this partnership, promises to transform the landscape for smallholder farmers facing similar challenges with quelea birds.

About Innovate UK Global Alliance Africa

Global Alliance Africa is a six-year project funded by UK International Development through Innovate UK (GCRF) and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

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