Food + Innovation = ?
The photos above depict a few of the women I was fortunate enough to meet and communicate with while in southern rural India. Driving along the main highways of India reveals a site not commonly seen in my soy and corn filled state of Iowa. Rather than large machinery and empty fields, there are hundreds of women crouched on their knees, hand picking weeds from the red dirt. The harsh sun beat down on their backs, as row by row they labored away on their husband’s land. When I asked one of the women how long it took to finish a field, she laughed to herself and replied “four hours” in a Kannada tongue. Four hours each day in addition to tending to the children and chores of the house. Four hours of crouching in a field staring at the sun baked earth. Four hours of minding where the children roamed while she sweat under her brightly colored sari. Four hours of ensuring her family would have viable land to grow food so that her children would not be starved of nutrients or an education
As I looked at my own hands, soft and pale, I realized that I would never understand her day-to-day life. I would never understand what it felt like to have the fate of your family sifting through your fingers. I knelt down next to her and let her show me the most efficient method to pulling weeds. Images danced through my mind as I remembered my childhood of gardening with my own mother. This was a different world and yet there I was, immersed in the livelihood of her people. This was their culture. Agriculture to these women wasn’t a career, it was a way of life. It was the focus of their day, because without it, they wouldn’t know a tomorrow.
Later that day I wandered through the markets, over stimulated by the aroma and clamor that I came to recognize as a mixture of sweat, curry, and chickens. Women gossiped around me as they quite literally sold the fruit of their labor. My whole life I had witnessed separate sectors of agriculture, rarely did they overlap. Here in India, they all blended together in an assembly of noise and color. The women grew, harvested, transported, and sold the food. As I walked on, I noticed that most of the food was sold in the open and a vast majority of it was already beginning to rot. Wasted food meant wasted nutrients and yet there was nothing that could be done. They would sell and eat what they could before the hunger season set in.
To fight this scenario, we created KinoSol. KinoSol is a mobile solar dehydrator for fruits and vegetables. It has a mylar lined storage unit to lengthen shelf life and bicycle hitch and tires have been added to ensure markets could be easily accessible. KinoSol’s main objective is to put power back into the hands of women living in the developing world.
Our primary targets for KinoSol are subsistence farmers. Currently, women in developing countries perform 80% of the agriculture work, yet they control less than 2% of the land
Today, in the peripheral countries, women are less likely than men to own land, use credit or other financial services, or receive education or extension advice. In some cases, women do not even control the use of their own time, yet evidence from Africa, Asia and Latin America consistently shows that families benefit when women have greater status and power within the household.
These are facts we no longer choose to accept as an adequate future. As a woman in the United States, we hear of the disadvantaged life women lead around the world and we think how fortunate we are to possess our luxuries. My three-team members and myself realized that we have the resources to affect change and help empower these women rather than pitying them.
It is a less commonly known fact that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 percent. This would reduce our world hunger by 100-150 million people. When women have additional income, they take that money and reinvest it back into their household. This inevitably puts food on the table and money reinvested in education for the children.
One goal of the KinoSol team is to break down the gender barriers in these regions, and empower local women to subsequently boost the overall economy and standard of living, while helping to decrease post harvest losses.
We created the KinoSol unit as a tool for women to reduce their waste and increase their family’s nutrient consumption. Excess dehydrated produce can be sold at market, allowing women to make an income for her family, which has been shown to dramatically increase her power in the household. During times of low food supply, dehydrated food can be consumed as it has a shelf life of six months. This will reduce the malnutrition prevalence in households who own our product.
Our primary goal is multifaceted as we wish to see a significant reduction in post harvest loss while also an increased income for the families. With KinoSol we are confident we can tackle some of the most prevalent burdens of the developing world, one woman at a time.