The majority of low-income rural Indian communities still use kerosene for lighting purposes and haven’t made the switch to solar technology because of a high initial investment involved and lack of awareness. MakeGlow is a low-cost Do-It-Yourself solar lantern that addresses both these problems. MakeGlow is mainly intended for students from underserved schools in low-income rural Indian communities. As part of a MakeGlow learning activity integrated in the school curriculum, students will build their own MakeGlow solar lanterns out of cardboard and a kit of parts. This approach will teach students about the working and benefits of switching to solar, while providing them with the means to build a low-cost solar lantern. At the end of the class term, students will organize a sale where they’d sell their MakeGlows to people in their communities, at a very low cost. This also acts as an effective channel of distribution for solar.

Mulungwishi Fertilizer App


Farmers in the Democratic Republic of Congo have no access to soil testing to help them determine soil fertility needs. As a result, application of the appropriate amount of fertilizer is very difficult. There is currently no method for farmers to adjust for differences in plant population or anticipate higher yield when planting hybrid seed versus the open pollinated varieties typically planted. Difficulty also arises whenever a farmer desires to plant his or her corn seed closer or farther apart or when they make changes to account for different fertilizer sources. To overcome these difficulties, this project proposes the development of a phone application that would enable small-holder farmers to employ yield goals, split the application of N fertilizer, and adjust fertilizer application rates for changes in plant population, plant seeding rates and variety used. Many smallholder farmers in DR Congo either own or have access to a cell phone capable of running applications. Incorporating these agronomic calculations into a simple-to-use feature phone would enhance farmer access to this agronomy in a simple to use technology in a way that would increase the likelihood that farmers would adopt it.

Youth Ag-education Innovation Cooperative


This project seeks to establish a Youth Ag-education and Innovation Cooperative (YAIC) to empower at-risk youth by putting them in the position to work side-by-side with their peers. By including a constitution and by-laws, this program will give young farmers ownership of their ventures so they gain leadership, teamwork, and communication skills within a democratically led institution. YAIC will partner with a local Rwandan NGO, Building Bridges to Rwanda (BBR), and a private American aquaponic company, WeFeedUs, to establish agri-tourism study abroad programs with four American universities. The fundamental goal is to help youth change their negative perception of agriculture through a participatory community-based curriculum program within the framework of a successful agricultural cooperative.
(Note: This project originally won in the Big Ideas “Conflict & Development” Category)

LGBT Cultural Competency Training

This project seeks to create a set of electronic training modules that can be taken by individuals who work with LGBT refugees and asylum-seekers anywhere in the world. These trainings would help eliminate inherent bias, misinterpretation, and discrimination present in these systems toward LGBT individuals. The modules would be made available in a variety of formats to ensure that compatibility issues do not hinder these efforts. The project would focus on NGO’s and government agencies in Texas and in Nairobi, Kenya because of the overwhelming need that has developed due to the political climate in that region. By establishing a non-profit in the U.S. with the sole purpose of developing this training program and getting it into the right hands, this project ensures that anyone working with refugees has the proper level of education to complete their jobs effectively. The program would serve the additional purpose of identifying those who are overtly discriminatory toward this population, and allow officials to steer LGBT refugees toward safer and more accepting environments.
(Note: This project originally won in the Big Ideas “Conflict & Development” Category)

Promoting Yogurt to Improve Child Nutrition in Far-Western Nepal


The causes of child stunting, a nutritional status indicator defined as poor height for weight, include inadequate caloric intake, low protein consumption (particularly of animal source protein), frequent diarrheal illness, and poor nutrient absorption in the gut due to chronic latent infection. Probiotic supplements, paired with an adequate diet, are a promising strategy for addressing child stunting. This project aims to promote the feeding of safely prepared yogurt to children between 6 months and 5 years of age in households throughout Bajura. Local women’s expertise in dahi production and child feeding will determine the best methods of efficiently and safely producing high quality yogurt, and prepare it with locally available fruits so that children enjoy the taste. These “best practices” will then be disseminated throughout the district at the monthly mother’s group meetings.