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IDIN Awards 10 New Picogrants in Tanzania to Support Local Innovation in Agriculture

Thursday, January 22, 2015
Lauren McKown

This month, the ECHO East Africa Impact Center, an IDIN Consortium Partner, awarded its first-ever "picogrants" to community innovators in Tanzania.

Picogrants, or very small grants, range from $50-$300, and support the development of a promising technology or approach poised to make a social impact. Most picogrants recipients live in or near Arusha, Tanzania and plan to work on agriculture-focused projects.

Four projects are a continuation of those started at the International Development Design Summit held in 2014, including an avocado oil press, a rainwater harvesting system, a manure spreader, and a bean thresher.

Local avocado farmers from Leguruki, Tanzania continue to work closely with IDIN Network members to finalize an avocado oil press made out of a car jack. The press is expected to be ready for field-testing soon. This month, students from the MIT D-Lab: Development class visited Arusha and Leguruki to work with the same farmers to design solutions for drying the avocados, a crucial and difficult first step in the process.

IDIN Network member Frank Mollel continues work on the human-powered manure spreader, simplifying the design to minimize the need for regular maintenance and optimizing the process for getting manure to crops rather than weeds. 

Other projects funded by picogrants come from the local community, including a bicycle-powered palm oil press developed by Mwanahrusi Goha, an IDIN Network member who was part of the team that recently developed a bicycle-powered coffee bean sheller, and a broken refrigerator being converted into a solar dryer for food and seeds by community member Lily Albert.

Given the grantees’ proximity to Arusha and focus on agriculture, ECHO is well poised to provide support and expertise to move the projects forward.

Meanwhile, local innovators also benefit from use of the nearby IDIN-supported innovation center Twende/AISE, where they can access tools, materials, and workshop space while brainstorming and collaborating with other innovators.

“The picogrant recipients have waited for an opportunity to try something which just needs some small seed funding and they are able to make their ideas into realities which would not have occurred without these funds,” said ECHO East Africa Impact Center Director Erwin Kinsey. “Having an ECHO support team fully dedicated to support follow up enables [the innovators] to iterate their ideas, bounce them off others, and seek solutions with the resources at hand.”

Picogrants are currently available in Tanzania and Zambia where IDIN has a local partner. Contact Erwin Kinsey at the ECHO East Africa Impact Center for more information about picogrants in Tanzania.