The Second Annual Agricultural Transformation Summit

After one year of programming, the Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI) convened its second annual Agricultural Transformation Summit on November 14, 2019. Focused on the theme of inclusive science, technology, and innovation, the event sought to encourage knowledge sharing and idea generation to drive agricultural transformation in Malawi.

School children using their imaginations to graphically record the Summit’s events.

 

The Summit featured Honourable Kondwani Nankhumwa, the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Water Development, as well as Professor George Yobe Kanyama Phiri, Vice Chancellor of Lilongwe University of Agriculture & Natural Resources. Malawian inventor and author, William Kamkwamba, served as the Summit’s Keynote Speaker; and renowned journalist and moderator, Femi Oke, led the event as the Mistress of Ceremonies. More than 270 participants attended the Summit and over 160 participants were involved in side events held on November 13.

Femi Oke interviews William Kamkwamba about his inspiring journey and what motivates him to innovate.

 

Summit participants listened to fascinating presentations and discussions, including a panel about what Malawi needs to trigger a data revolution for agricultural markets, and a presentation on technology-enabled extension work, led by Opportunity International.

A demonstration of the smart phone app employed by Opportunity International.

 

In advance of the Summit, Kamkwamba helped judge ATI’s 2019 Agriculture Technology (AgTech) Challenge, which was hosted by the Centre for Agricultural Transformation (CAT). The challenge encouraged primary, secondary, and tertiary students to harness their creativity, with the ultimate goal of inspiring a new generation of innovators to sustain efforts toward agricultural transformation. Kamkwamba, along with CAT staff, mentored and encouraged participants throughout their application processes. All finalists were invited to present their inventions to judges at a side event. Winners received trophies and monetary awards during the Summit the following day.

 

Sylvia Makupe, recent graduate of the Malawi University of Science and Technology, and winner of the tertiary school category.

Runners up from Phoenix International School in the primary school category.

 

At another inspirational event, hosted by the CAT team, professors from the University of Minnesota taught 30 Malawian university students how to design and code networked agricultural sensors. By the end of this one-day bootcamp, each group of students was able to link into working sensors that deliver and stream data in real-time. This event underscored the huge potential for young engineers and programmers to learn about the science and application of real-time data.

Participants of the Agricultural Sensors Coding Bootcamp.

 

Elsewhere during the Summit, panelists discussed the high-tech skills needed to succeed in twenty-first century agriculture, describing global trends in artificial intelligence, automation, and bioinformatics. ATI’s scholarship program partner, the Institute of International Education, hosted a panel on bringing world-class educational opportunities to aspiring Malawians.

Until next year!

Yohane Chimbalanga, Research Services Officer, National Commission on Science and Technology; Derek Yach, President of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World; Candida Nakhumwa, Country Director of ATI, Manzoor Bheda, Commercial Farmer; William Kamkwamba; Jim Lutzweiler, Vice President of Agricultural & Livelihoods for the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World
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