Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Monday, July 13, 2015

Tanzanian entrepreneur wins first Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation

17 June 2015. UK. A Tanzanian chemical engineer has won the first Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation with his specialised water-filtration system.

Dr Askwar Hilonga’s innovation – a sand-based water filter that cleans contaminated drinking water using nanotechnology – has earned him prize money of UK £25,000 (TZS79 million).

Each Nanofilter is engineered for a specific body of water and absorbs the contaminants present – from heavy metals or minerals, such as copper and fluoride, to biological contaminants like bacteria and viruses, and pollutants such as pesticides.

Twelve Africans had been shortlisted last year for the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation organised by the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng). The agriculture related technologies were:
  1. Ernst Pretorius – A fence tampering warning system for farmers (South Africa) 
  2. Musenga Silwawa – A precise and regulated fertiliser applicator for small-scale farmers (Zambia), 
  3. Askwar Hilonga – The integration of nanotechnology and sand-based water filtration for safe drinking water (Tanzania), 
  4. Oscar Kibazohi –The mechanical pressing of bananas to produce enzyme-free clear banana juice (Tanzania
A walking-stick like fertiliser applicator 
will help small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa

nother simple device resembling a walking stick could soon be helping small farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to apply fertilisers to their crops and improve efficiency of their work. Silwawa’s design, a runner up in the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, consists of a backpack with the fertiliser, a simple transfer tube and a handheld walking-stick-like applicator. The device allows one person to do what three were doing previously. The fertiliser applicator is currently undergoing tests at the University of Zambia in preparation for its market launch.

I developed this technology out of my personal experience of the difficulties that small scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa face. The farmers there don’t have any appropriate technology. They rely 100 per cent on manual, physical labour. They don’t have tools designed for farming activities. Applying a fertiliser, for example, would normally take three people, going from one plant to another. The first opens a hole next to the plant, the second applies the fertiliser using only his hand and the third closes the hole. It’s not calibrated, it’s inconsistent, it’s wasteful and that’s how I came up with the technology,” Musenga Silwawa, part-time farmer and researcher at Zambia’s Agriculture Research Institute.

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