Student Works to Solve Uganda’s Food Waste Problems

Lawrence Okettayot

Lawrence Okettayot

By Shujaa Kwanzaa

According to international reports, Ugandan engineering student Lawrence Okettayot is traveling the country to spread the word about a device he’s created which could be a solution to Africa’s food waste crisis.

According to reports, food wasted every year on the continent could feed up to 300 million people, according to the United Nations (UN). In just Uganda alone, up to 40% of fruit and vegetables end up being discarded.

But Lawrence, a 23-year old engineering student, hopes that his invention, the Sparky Dryer, will change everything.

The device is a dehydrator running on garden waste that dries fruit and vegetables quickly, making them last for months instead of days. It looks like a small fridge and uses organic waste instead of electricity – to which few farmers in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa have regular access.

“Much of what’s sold in markets is wasted because farmers cannot store the food. So they have to return home and pick fresh fruit and vegetables to sell the next day. During the dry season very little grows here so people go hungry,” says Lawrence, while walking in the buzzing market in the northern regional capital of Kitgum, past small stalls and piles of rotting food.

The device has a small chamber where a gas fire is fixed, heating up a separate drying chamber above where the sliced produce is stacked in shelves. It also has a catalytic converter which prevents harmful gases from being released during the drying process.

The alternatives to the Sparky Dryer are electric-powered dehydrators but they are too expensive, while traditional drying methods – solar dryers or open sun drying – do not work well during the rainy season and are much slower.

And each unit can dehydrate over 22 pounds of mangoes in just two hours. The starting price is $80.Yet despite its potential, Lawrence has sold very few units – seven in all. So does his invention actually work?

Three hours away by road from Kitgum, lives Joe Okettayot, Lawrence’s uncle, one of the few farmers who has brought a dryer. Lawrence was inspired to come up with his idea after his uncle told him he was considering leaving farming.

“We used to throw away most of what we grew,” says Okettayot.

“Now we can dry mangoes and other fruit even when it rains, so we don’t waste anything anymore.

“We sell dehydrated products during the dry season for four times more money than the fresh produce,” Joe adds while pointing to a brick building sitting in the middle of the farm which he built thanks to this extra income.

According to reports, the Uganda’s government admits it has a massive food waste problem, but has not yet found solutions. “We only have two processing facilities in Uganda,” says James Tumwine from the Ministry of Agriculture.

“The government doesn’t do business and private investors just aren’t aware of the huge market potential here,” he says.

Uganda plans to create food processing hubs for specific products in different regions; but progress is too slow.

Okettayot is optimistic about the future and he wants to scale up his invention to reach other parts of the world.

Thousands Protest “Unite the Right” Anniversary

Counter protestors easily dwarfed fascists who assembled for Sunday's Unite the Right rally in Washington, DC.

Counter protestors easily dwarfed fascists who assembled for Sunday’s Unite the Right rally in Washington, DC.

MCNS Staff

White supremacists held an anniversary demonstration in Washington DC this past Sunday to commemorate last year’s violent and deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA. The group was met by thousands of protesters who filled their half of the park chanting “Black Lives Matter!” “Go home, Nazis!” “No Trump! No KKK! And no fascist USA!”

Jason Kessler, one of the organizers of last year’s rally urged 400 supporters to join him for a rally at Lafayette Square, across from the White House. However, fewer than 40 turned out, according to the Washington Post, and were dwarfed by thousands of counter protesters.

Heather Heyer was killed at last year’s “Unite the Right” rally when a white man who identified himself as a Nazi, according to the police, drove a car into a crowd.

In a controversial move, DC Metro transit agency provided white supremacists with a private rail car. In response, critics, including two Washington D.C. council members and the union that represents Metro employees castigated the transit agency for providing extra protection to the hate group.

Council members reminded the city of the agency’s statement just last week that members of this group would not be given special treatment. “Giving white supremacists & hate groups a private Metro rail car is so unbelievably wrong & disgraceful. Beyond the horrible precedent it sets, what does it tell the riding public & operators? Plus, it’s the exact opposite of what @WMATA said they’d do,” council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) tweeted.

The city of Charlottesville, VA refused to issue a permit to the white supremacists for the anniversary rally. Two reporters from the Huffington Post stated on WUSA9 that “if a person died at a Black Lives Matter protest, they wouldn’t have got another permit.”

Arkansas Cop Fired After Telling Black Men They “Don’t Belong in My City”

Disgraced England, Arkansas cop Michael Moore was fired after video of him harassing two Black men surfaced.

Disgraced England, Arkansas cop Michael Moore was fired after video of him harassing two Black men surfaced.

By Free Radical

An England, Arkansas police officer was fired on Wednesday after a video went viral of him telling two Black men that they were not welcome in the city.

The fracas stemmed from an incident on July 21 when Demarcus Bunch, a native of England, Arkansas, and his cousin Shannon Scribner noticed they were being watched by a cop as they attempted to shoot a music video. Even after the men left their location and moved to their final shooting site, the police officer, later identified, as Michael Moore, followed them.

Sensing trouble, Bunch and Scribner approached Moore’s vehicle to ensure that there was no misunderstanding regarding their activities. The two men explained that they had an uncle who worked as an England, Arkansas police officer. Yet Moore escalated the situation by telling them that “you don’t belong in my city” and brandishing his k-9 out of his police cruiser, before finally leaving the scene.

Incensed by the incident, Bunch and Scribner filed a formal complaint to England, Arkansas police chief Danna Powell who never responded to the two men.

This prompted them to release the video on Facebook on Tuesday August 7. The inflammatory clip quickly garnered more than fifty thousand views. The next day, Powell mysteriously issued a press release stating that Moore had been terminated.

National sources also uncovered that Moore had been previously terminated as a Lonoke County, Arkansas police officer for having a bad “personality issue,” according to Sheriff John Staley.

This permissive transfer system where a discredited cop can easily find employment with another department has been raised in the wake of the killing of Ferguson, Missouri teenager Michael Brown. Disgraced police officer Darren Wilson had once been a member of the Jennings, Missouri police department which was found to be so steeped in brutality and corruption that it was forced to disband. Wilson found a new police home on the Ferguson, Missouri force which was in large part just as nefarious as Jennings, as multiple reports and studies have found. The systemic injustice and disregard for Black life in the Ferguson Police Department provided the backdrop for the murder of Michael Brown and the subsequent unrest in St. Louis four years ago.

Family and Activists Rebuild Michael Brown Memorial

MCNS Staff

Michael Brown Sr. reflects at his son's memorial in Ferguson, Missouri.

Michael Brown Sr. reflects at his son’s memorial in Ferguson, Missouri.

An 18 year-old Black boy whose name became synonymous with the social justice movement is being remembered on the eve of the fourth anniversary of his shooting death.

Family and friends of Michael Brown, Jr. were joined by activists Wednesday in rebuilding a memorial honoring him in the middle of Canfield Drive in Ferguson, MO. Balloons, flowers, teddy bears, candles and other love offerings were placed down in the street as they had been four years ago, as well as around a plaque commemorating Brown, Jr. on the sidewalk nearby.

Among the many words expressed at the rebuild, participants acknowledged the victories resulting from months of protest and shifts in local and national politics, including the ouster of county prosecutor Robert McCulloch the day before by former Ferguson city council member Wesley Bell. McCulloch, who fielded widespread scrutiny during his investigation of the shooting, announced in November 2014 that the county had decided not to indict Darren Wilson who killed Brown, Jr. This lead to a resurgence of protests which lasted for weeks.

Michael Brown, Jr. was killed on August 9, 2014 after being approached by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson while walking to his grandmother’s home. After aggressive questioning, Brown, who was unarmed with hands raised, was struck with nine shots from Wilson.