Skip to main content

Now live! Explore the program for the upcoming 2024 Global Conference, taking place May 5-8, 2024.

Stories from the Field: Milken–Motsepe Prize in Green Energy Meet the Finalists: Smart Agri-Centres

Stories from the Field: Milken–Motsepe Prize in Green Energy
Meet the Finalists: Smart Agri-Centres

Tell us about you/your team.

Smart Villages and Kiima Foods are partners from the UK and Uganda who have worked together for many years. We are a diverse team from a range of backgrounds who are all committed to tackling the issue of energy access in rural communities.

We started working together on this problem because many remote, rural communities lack access to electricity and, therefore, do not have the same opportunities as those who live on-grid. We saw that traditional methods such as mini-grids, solar home systems, and grid extensions were either not financially viable, not operating at scale, or just not happening in the areas in which we work.

We’ve seen the incredible positive impact that a scalable, affordable energy solution can have on people’s lives, and we won’t stop working until these technologies are made available to everyone.

What inspired you to participate in the Milken-Motsepe Prize in Green Energy? In addition to competing for the $1 million grand prize, what do you hope to gain from this experience?

We were inspired to continue our work with smallholder farmers, and we were excited by the opportunity that the Milken-Motsepe Prize in Green Energy presented to do this. This prize is special in its focus on scalability and enabling long-term economic prosperity through energy access, both of which align completely with the ethos of Smart Villages and Kiima Foods.

By taking part in this competition, we hope to gain greater insights into the best way to increase energy access in rural locations and to deliver our model to more communities who would benefit from it. The Smart Agri-Centre is already working and generating impact in Uganda, but the Milken-Motsepe Prize in Green Energy has given us the opportunity to increase the utility of the center for the communities that it serves.

How will your concept expand access to reliable, affordable, and sustainable electricity in Africa?

In 2019, 26 million people in Uganda did not have access to electricity, according to the International Energy Agency. This lack of electricity disproportionately affects rural, agricultural communities and prevents people who live in rural Uganda from being able to invest in themselves, their families, and their communities.

Smart Villages and Kiima Foods saw the effects of lack of electricity in the communities where we work, and, through extensive discussion with these communities, we came up with the solution of a Smart Agri-Centre. This center provides power to communities for housing, community infrastructure, shops, and to a central agricultural hub. This hub contains cold storage and additional agri-value services that are tailored to the farming community to increase farmers’ incomes.

We have proven that Smart Agri-Centres are a game-changing way of providing power to rural, agricultural communities while simultaneously increasing the average income for community members. In just one year of having access to the center, farmers on average saw their incomes quadruple and saw unprecedented socioeconomic and agricultural impacts such as improvements in the environment, job and skills creation, youth engagement, and health and education, as well as significant reductions in post-harvest loss.

In our pilot site in Mbata, the Smart Agri-Centre can generate over 100kWh in one day. Access to this level of energy is life-changing for entire communities, and we are working hard to ensure that our proven impact will spread to multiple other centers throughout Uganda and beyond.

What sets you apart from other teams in this competition?

There have been so many fantastic teams in this competition, and we have been inspired to see so many innovative solutions to the problems of energy access.

Where Smart Villages and Kiima Foods really stand out is in the proven, scalable impact of our Smart Agri-Centre solution, its scalability to a huge market, and its versatile provision of energy for a range of income-generating activities, households, and community infrastructure.

We have collected extensive data on our pilot solution, which shows that, through having access to the power at the Smart Agri-Centre, farmers across an entire community increased their earnings on average by a factor of four in just one year. This kind of impact is unprecedented. It truly shows the value in our approach, which is easy to tailor to the most pressing needs and wants of any agricultural community. As it is a solution that is easy to implement, generates a lot of power, can be tailored on-the-ground to suit the needs of different communities, and (perhaps most importantly) generates a huge amount of revenue for the community, it is easily scalable to meet the vast off-grid power needs in countries such as Uganda and beyond.