Youth-led innovation in Zambia received a boost for International Youth Day through the Internship and Innovation Grant (I2G) challenge. Ten groups, consisting of young entrepreneurs, professionals, and graduate students, with ideas for transformative approaches to climate-smart agriculture and climate information services participated in the three-phase challenge.

I2G features an innovation challenge phase, an incubation phase of between three and six months, and an internship phase. During phase one of the challenge, the ten groups were led through a human-centred design process culminating in pitch practice and a pitch day, where each team had to pitch their solutions to a jury of industry experts. The three groups with the highest potential to scale-up their ideas were awarded prize money worth K24,000 (first), K18,000 (second), and K12,000 (third). The three winning teams then proceeded to the incubation and internship phases.

The incubation phase offered coaching in one-on-one business modelling, marketing and financial strategy, legal and investor readiness, as well as technology use. The third and final phase included Demonstration Day on 9 August 2023 where the top three teams presented their solutions to a panel of judges consisting of industry experts. Demonstration Day was a collaboration between the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and Lusaka-based innovation and technology hub BongoHive together with the Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research in Africa (AICCRA) Zambia project.

Mwiche Mukoma of Green Giraffe, one of the winning teams said, “It started from a dream on how to package Zambian flavoured snacks. AICCRA and BongoHive helped us to refine our ideas, particularly in such a way that can support local farmers by incentivising the use of climate smart agriculture. We did this through increasing their market share and coming up with a sustainable model that is good for the environment and our Zambian economy.”

Commenting on youth-led efforts to tackle the climate challenges facing small and medium-sized agri businesses, Dr. Concillia Monda of the School of Natural Resources at Copperbelt University said, “AICCRA and the Copperbelt University are both interested in climate smart agriculture. We are at the core of training people who implement these concepts and to take up the scaling discussion in growing such good works. I hope the finalists will act as motivators to other youth so that they too can get involved and run with the baton.” Nchimunya Bbebe, a lecturer at Mulungushi University, added “the best way to prepare [for climate change] is to create technologies that will help us ride the wave into the future. I can also not overemphasize the need to scale such technologies.”

“We were thrilled to see the enthusiasm and dedication of the participants in tackling climate change challenges through the I2G Innovation Challenge,” said Dr Inga Jacobs-Mata, Regional Representative of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Southern Africa and lead of the AICCRA Zambia program. “This provides a steppingstone for young agribusiness entrepreneurs to scale their innovations in climate-smart agriculture and climate information services. These youth-led social enterprises are making such a meaningful impact to the Zambian agribusiness ecosystem, and its inspiring for us to work with them providing science-based technical support to innovation scaling.”

BongoHive Co-founder and Executive Director Lukonga Lindunda remarked that “It is heartening to witness the commitment of Zambia’s young minds in addressing climate challenges. BongoHive is happy to contribute to the creation of impactful and viable solutions in the agriculture sector through training scalable startups and reducing barriers to entrepreneurship. We look forward to seeing these solutions being implemented beyond this programme.”

“The event lived up to AICCRA’s pursuits of harnessing climate smart agriculture through climate smart innovation development. AICCRA is a project that helps to deliver a climate-smart African future driven by science and innovation in agriculture. This Demo Day strove to bring young minds together to showcase the transformative outcomes that comes from elevating communities to dig in deep, be empowered, and raise the horn of a greener, climate smart Zambia and Africa at large. The next step is scaling and bringing along Zambian farmers, the government and the private sector,” concludes Dr Mirriam Makungwe, Research Officer at IWMI.


About AICCRA:  Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) helps deliver a climate-smart African future driven by science and innovation in agriculture. AICCRA works to make climate information services and climate-smart agriculture more accessible to millions of smallholder farmers across Africa. With better access to technology and advisory services—linked to information about effective response measures—farmers can better anticipate climate-related events to take preventative action that helps their communities safeguard livelihoods and the environment.

AICCRA has teams in six countries: Senegal, Ghana, Mali, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia. While AICCRA teams focus on accelerating impacts of CGIAR innovation in focus countries, AICCRA also has a number of regional initiatives that complement national activities to deliver benefits for a broader range of stakeholders across East, West and Southern Africa. For more information, click here.

About BongoHive: BongoHive is Zambia’s first technology and innovation hub. Established in May 2011 and based in Lusaka, the co-founders, all enthusiastic programmers, sought to address the gaps they experienced working within the local technology industry leading to a lack of coordination, skills exposure and productivity. BongoHive has evolved to assist scalable startups of any background by enhancing skills, accelerating growth, strengthening networks, increasing collaboration, providing a forum for ideas exchange and reducing the barriers to entrepreneurship. For more information, click here.