Nigerians turn to technology to fight hunger in Africa’s most populous nation
A young software engineer in Nigeria Oscar Ekponimo has developed an app called Chowberry, which connects grocery stores with non-profits and non-profits with hungry people.
Nigeria has an estimated population of 13 million people suffering from hunger daily, and seven out of 10 survive on less than $1.25 a day, which is below the global poverty line of $1.90, according to the World Food Program (WFP).
At least 86 million of Nigeria’s population live in extreme poverty, according to a 2017 World Bank report.
It’s a global problem facing a number of countries of the world. But with a billion people experiencing hunger, up to one-third of all food is destroyed post-harvest and through transportation, or is thrown away by consumers and stores, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
However, Chowberry has raised some hopes. Developed by Ekponimo, a software engineer based in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, the app connects grocery stores and supermarkets with non-governmental organisations and charities to put waste foods to use.
As packaged food comes close to expiry, the app initiates discounts that grow until the product is sold.
“I saw an opportunity to provide affordable nutrition to millions of people while providing retailers with a sustainable system for managing the end of shelf-life. This is a win-win solution,” he said.
Oscar conceptualized the idea for Chowberry in September 2013. Prior to developing it, he and a few friends occasionally distributed food to street kids and homeless persons.
“I had a friend who worked at a nearby supermarket and discovered they throw away items that expire on their shelves and asked if they can donate it to us for distribution to impoverished households just before it expires and they agreed.”
This, he says, helped him automate the process by using his programming skills to develop the app. “That was how the whole idea of what Chowberry is came together,” he said. “Most of the research and early development was self-financed from my personal savings.”
Between 2017 and 2018, Chowberry assisted over 50,000 households across Nigeria, according to Oscar. The app receives 6,000 daily visits, and is pushing for the 100,000 mark by the end of 2019.