EU, Gallery Of Code unveils art-driven initiative for food security

By Patricia Amogu

The Commission of the European Union (EU) and the Gallery of Code have unveiled the ST-ARTS4AFRICA programme, an arts-driven initiative that will create opportunities for African artists to use artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver solutions.

Mr. Oscar Ekponimo, Managing Director of Gallery of Code, a research, development and consultancy firm, made this known during a media briefing in Abuja.

According to him, the programme, a science, technology and arts-driven initiative, is a special version of STARTS for Africa, an EU-led intervention with the Gallery of Code acting as an umbrella body for the initiative in Nigeria.

“STARTS started in 2016, but now there is a special version for Africa.

“This is the first phase and the first time this has happened in Africa and a Nigerian has been selected from 300 applicants.

“Jibril Baba, a visual artist, has just been awarded a grant to support his project – a smart technology (model) that will address food storage challenges, boost food production and fill the growing food insecurity gaps in Nigeria will curb.

“Prior to selection, the intention was that each host institution would come up with a challenge and we would focus on food and water in Nigeria.

Ekponimo stated that the EU encourages innovations, from an artistic perspective, because innovation is more practical and impactful when it is artistically driven.

“From over 300 applications from across Africa, Jibrin was selected and supported by the EU to implement a model yam shed that will use AI to control and monitor the change in climate conditions and also monitor air quality around the yam , such as and check the product for spoilage.

“This will automatically control food waste and address food insecurity.

“This will be the first of its kind, but the project is still in the early stages.

“We have just finished the reflection phase and are moving on to the actualization phase and I am happy to say that there will be a final exhibition in Nigeria and Jibrin has also been selected to exhibit at a festival to be held in Austria from September held. September 4 to 8.” he added.

Dr. Femi Adeluyi, the National Coordinator of the National Talent Export Program (NATEP), a new initiative of the Federal Government, said the project is “fully in line with what President Bola Tinubu wants to achieve by investing in talent (creative industries).

“This is a very good model that can be further improved and developed.

“Today it’s the yams we’re focusing on; tomorrow it could be something different and we can take advantage of it.

“We want opportunities where our artists can showcase our skills and products abroad and then benefit from such investments.

“This can increase our socio-economic strength and shows that we can add a lot of value.

“This is something that will be adapted and expanded in other countries as well and it will enhance our collaboration with so many other countries who want to replicate and adapt this initiative in their countries to curb food insecurity.

“We look forward to working with Gallery of Code and our artist Jibrin on this great initiative,” he added.

Speaking about the initiative, the visual artist, a beneficiary of the ST-ARTS4AFRICA grant, said the core of the project was inspired by “our traditional models of the past of how we cooled water in gourds and looked for more technologically advanced methods of making water they work better.

*It is a prototype of a yam shed, a modular storage system in which the yams are placed using a series of sensors that can monitor climatic conditions and air quality and also protect the yams from too much sunlight.

“During our preliminary research, we visited several states in the northeastern part of the country and found that out of 1,500 yam tubers harvested, 600 were lost due to the lack of a proper storage system.”

According to him, yam barn production can help reduce wastage due to spoilage, thereby increasing productivity and significantly improving the chances of ensuring food security in Nigeria.

“During a crisis, a storage system like this can be worthwhile,” he added.

Patricia Carvalho, a partner in the project in Portugal, said via a webinar that it would be very intriguing to get to the heart of what artists can achieve in promoting food security and the availability of clean water using scientific and technological tools such as AI.

She welcomed the initiative and reaffirmed support for the project. (NAN)