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Moving beyond “silver bullets”: Co-learning through the EatSafe Food Safety Innovation Challenge in Ethiopia and Nigeria

What began as a shared priority to focus on improving food safety in local traditional market settings across teams at the EatSafe Feed the Future Initiative (of USAID), the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and the Sun Business Network (SBN), evolved into the first EatSafe Innovation Challenge, coordinated in part by the IFSS portal initiative team from April to October of 2022. 

The EatSafe Innovation Challenge encouraged students, researchers, entrepreneurs, and innovators to share their ideas on how food system innovations can be adapted and applied in traditional food markets and along value chains to solve critical food safety issues in Nigeria and Ethiopia. 

Over 750 applications were initially received, out of which the top 42 participated in a series of technical workshops facilitated by the glocolearning team. They used the backcasting process as a structured systems thinking and planning methodology to identify potential barriers, essential elements to take into account, and possible synergies to accelerate the positive social and environmental impact of their proposed innovative solutions for improving food safety. By the end, the finalists had clearly defined ‘pathway-to-impact’ maps that outlined what, when and how they could move their solutions towards having a desired impact, and who would be necessary to engage and involve along the way to ensure successful implementation. 

“My engagement with the technical experts made me consider possible areas of improvement in my innovation, such as the incorporation of micro-filters to prevent contamination of the foods being dried and the effect of bio-properties of certain foods on the rate of drying,” shares Oyeyemi Fadair, a finalist from Nigeria. Along with 9 other finalists (read more in this Agrilinks post),  Oyeyeme was invited to present his concept at the EatSafe National Innovation Challenge Pitch Conference in each country. From these events, six participants were selected to participate in the Global Finale hosted by the Technical University of Denmark Food Skylab, of which three were awarded prizes from sponsors.

In partnership with the Danish Technology University (DTU), EatSafe Innovation Challenge finalists were connected for co-learning mentorship sessions with technical experts that could support them in preparing for the Global Finale and provide technical feedback on how to improve their solutions. “The backcasting process was an amazing experience to think through the process from where we are at as a start-up to where we would like to be in the next 10 years,” said Ede Ruth Chikodi, a finalist from Nigeria. “I loved the various ideas and how the pathway map [online tool] is set up to make us think of the system outside of our business. I encourage every entrepreneur out there, if you are thinking business, go through this process!” She went on to share that “One key concept was the traditional business model versus the sustainable business model. For sustainability to be achieved, the business must operate with the future in mind, and this applies to the future environment, raw materials used, and business processes involved in the business and how today's operational activities affect it.”

The EatSafe Innovation Challenge was successful in sparking the engagement of entrepreneurs and innovators, who are eager to use their skills and resources to create scalable, sustainable solutions that will improve food safety in traditional markets. With the right support and funding, these ideas have the potential to make a real impact and bring about positive change. 

EatSafe, GAIN and SBN are committed to continue building on the success of the EatSafe Innovation Challenge and to explore opportunities with partners to bring even more innovations to life. 

You can access the final report here: