Mojisola Esther Ojebode, was the top innovator in the agriculture sector of the annual Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Tech-I competition for science and technology entrepreneurs from emerging economies worldwide that was held in the run up to the recently concluded Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), that was hosted in Nairobi, Kenya. She emerged the winner of the 30 finalists drawn from around the world.
Ojebode, a Nigerian 2014 AWARD Fellow, is the proud recipient of a total US $25,000 start up funding for her agriculture focused venture, which aims to develop and commercialize eco-friendly and health-friendly biopesticide alternatives.
“My idea is to see the production of an eco-friendly biopesticide from medicinal plants for the protection of cowpea seeds, against cowpea weevils, and use the pesticide as a means to improve the quality and market value of cowpea seeds and boosting the incomes of cowpea farmers and traders in Nigeria,” explains Ojebode. “I was awarded second place in the idea category ($15,000), best female entrepreneur ($5,000), and best in agriculture ($5,000). I intend to use these funds to start-up a biopesticide production company in Nigeria. This plant will significantly improve the incomes of cowpea traders and farmers in Nigeria who have been losing produce to cowpea weevils. It will also improve consumption of cowpeas by households, leading to improved nutritional status of both urban and rural dwellers in Nigeria.”
This was no modest achievement for Ojebode. A record 792 applicants from 74 countries applied for the competition, and after an expert review of the proposals, 76 semi-finalists were selected to present and defend their ideas. Through an online voting process, over 407,000 votes were cast, and 30 finalists selected.
The passion and dedication of these 30 entrepreneurs was evident during their live pitching sessions at the GES, which evaluate the competitors’ solutions to local and global problems through innovative agricultural, energy, healthcare, and information communication technology-related start-ups.
“I received the information regarding the GIST Tech-I competition as a member and former applicant of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) network. I am a Nutritional Biochemist and my research is focused on developing and commercializing an eco-friendly and health-friendly alternative (biopesticides) to synthetic chemicals. This project is aimed at increasing the availability of the most affordable source of plant protein in Nigeria -Cowpea, popularly called Beans. About 50% of this crop is destroyed as a result of insect pest attack in storage”, reports Ojebode.
The development of this biopesticide will offer a great solution to the problems created by inappropriate pesticide use and toxic effects especially for exportable food crops, contributing to the improvement of agricultural productivity and improved incomes.
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