LASER PULSE East Africa Award Undertakes Co-design Approach Toward Partnership


LASER PULSE East Africa Award Undertakes Co-design Approach Toward Partnership

In the Exploring Blockchain Technology to Improve Food Security Through African Indigenous Vegetables project in Western Kenya, we have prioritized a co-design process between the research  and research translation partners from the proposal development stage. Egerton University (research), Virginia Tech (research), and AgUnity (research translation) each bring their own, yet complementary, expertise to the project. This has allowed us to draw upon the rich and contextual knowledge of team members when designing and implementing research activities, and planning how to incorporate findings into our primary research translation product – AgUnity’s smartphone application built on blockchain technology. 

We have also worked with on-the-ground stakeholders in our iterative co-design process, such as the community-based organization New Vision, and value chain actors like Dorcas (pictured above), a vegetable trader we spoke with in Kakamega County, Dorcas. We believe the end result of this multifaceted collaboration will be an application that better reflects the needs of value chain actors for indigenous vegetables in Western Kenya.

We wanted to blend the research and translation process from the beginning of our proposal development for three reasons: 

(1) We expected research activities to bring up new questions that would need to be addressed to produce an impactful research translation product. The research team members are able to return to the field to get answers for the research translation team to continue to refine the app.

(2) Collaboration and partnership are essential for impact. Development in general must continue to break down silos between disciplines and professions in order to meet the needs of the individuals we are trying to serve through this research. Collaboration facilitates the rapid problem solving and creativity that impact generation requires. 

(3) Working collaboratively is a lot of fun! It stimulates passions and shared interests, facilitates out of the box thinking, and learning. So far, we have been able to provide training to each other, talk about new and innovative ways to address nutrition, discuss unique avenues to scale the project and ensure sustainability, and share our own passions and interests in travel, food, and family.

Through our project, we are adapting AgUnity’s smartphone application built on blockchain technology for African indigenous vegetables (AIVs) to improve smallholder producer incomes and drive demand for highly nutritious produce among consumers in Western Kenya. We have now completed our initial assessment of the value chain to help determine the need for specific characteristics of the blockchain, identify and connect with actors who will receive a phone and use it in their respective activities over the next six months, and learn more about the barriers to production and demand for AIVs in Kakamega County. We will be publishing a value chain report in the coming weeks as well as a white paper on the potential for blockchain to contribute to food security outcomes. By April 2021, 60 value chain actors will have received a phone and begun to use it in their day-to-day operations. COVID-19 has made research and implementation challenging and posed some barriers to carrying out activities in the field; however, cross collaboration between partners has been critical in overcoming these challenges to continue to work towards achieving project objectives.

For more information, please contact Betty Bugusu at LASER PULSE.

– Jessica Agnew, Ralph Hall, Joseph Mwangi, Nurvitria Kristofikova

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