To effectively tap into the immense innovation potential of students in solution development, ResilientAfrica Network – West Africa Resilience Innovation Lab (RAN WARILab) is pleased to announce WARILab Youth Spark Innovation Grants (YSiG+) which will recognize and support promising and creative ideas from students at University for Development Studies, Ghana. The best ideas will receive grants ranging from $1,000 – $5,000 to further develop and refine their ideas.

By leveraging creativity of students and the power of competition to drive innovation, Youth Spark Innovation Grants (YSiG) provide a great platform for students across all disciplines to use their creativity, passion and knowledge to create solutions that will contribute to RAN’s Resilience Innovation agenda. We wish to support students’ ingenious attempts at proposing promising ideas, approaches, or simple prototypes that will contribute to causing positive community change and strengthen resilience. Concepts may range from the feasible to the fanciful, as long as they address a resilience challenge within a community and apply innovation to strengthen community resilience.

Applications will be accepted until January 20, 2017. Click here to apply now.

Brief Overview of ResilientAfrica Network (RAN)

The ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) funded by USAID is a partnership targeting 20 partner universities in 16 African countries. The main agenda of RAN is to strengthen resilience of communities vulnerable to shocks and stresses in Sub-Saharan Africa through university led-local African innovative solutions. ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) is led by Makerere University, with the secretariat at School of Public Health. It is one of eight university development labs under the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN)of USAID’s Global Development Lab. RAN’s core partners are Tulane University’s Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy (DRLA), Stanford University, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). RAN comprises four Resilience Innovation Labs (RILabs) each working with Partner Universities and focusing on different thematic areas as summarized in in the figure below

Through RAN, WARILab focuses on strengthening resilience of African communities by leveraging knowledge and skills in African universities to interface with communities to identify resilience challenges and, together, develop innovative solutions. Just like the UDS TTFTP programme, RAN/WARILab brings university students, faculty and local communities together to jointly co-create innovative solutions that strengthen specific dimensions of resilience in West Africa. The WA RILab Youth Spark Innovation Grants (YSiG+) seek to leverage the huge potential of student-community co-creation of innovation under the TTFPP beyond the academic requirement for graduation.

The WARILab focuses on strengthening the resilience of communities responding to rapid urbanization, food insecurity, and population growth in Ghana, Senegal, and Mali. Through community consultations, WARILab has identified the thematic areas of rapid urbanization, climate change and food insecurity as priority challenges facing Ghana, particularly its target communities: Ashaiman Municipal in the Greater Accra region; Kassena-Nankana Municipal (Navrongo) in the Upper East region; and Tamale Metropolitan area in the Northern region.

Based on community consultations, a Collaborative Resilience Innovation Design (CRID) approach, and through distilling of prioritised proposals from the 2015 Tamale Deliberative Poll, the WARILab has identified three key innovation challenges in addressing the effects of rapid urbanisation, namely, 1) Transforming Agricultural Practices and Markets; 2) Improving Water, Sanitation, Hygiene & Health; and 3) Promoting Livelihood Diversification & Financial Inclusion.

Are you a UDS TTFPP Student? Do you have an innovative idea or approach based on your field practical attachment that has the potential to strengthen the resilience of individuals, families or communities in the context of rapid urbanisation? The WA RILab Youth Spark Innovation Grant (YSiG+) is a great opportunity for you to step out with your bold idea either individually or as a team and be supported through funding, mentorship and visibility, among others, to address practical resilience challenges facing communities in Ghana.

YSiG+ seeks to support students with ideas from all disciplines and all UDS campuses to develop and refine their ideas or approaches as well as supporting those that already have simple prototypes to further refine them.

Students will be expected to align their innovation with WARILab’s thematic area of addressing challenges associated with population growth and rapid urbanization. WA RILab’s thematic focus is to strengthen the resilience of communities to the myriad effects of rapid urbanization such as food insecurity, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), lack of alternative livelihoods opportunities, among others whilst maintaining the vision of a regional network of excellence in indigenous knowledge driven-innovation and resilience scholarship. This thematic area of focus was identified through an extensive baseline literature review that focused on identifying resilience issues that affect the largest section of the population in the WA RILab network countries (Ghana, Mali and Senegal).

Eligible topics for Youth Spark Innovation Grants (YSiG)

The West Africa RILab has identified and will fund YSiG+ projects in three priority innovation challenges for resilience building around rapid urbanization.

Topic 1: Transform Agricultural Practices and Markets

In the face of rapid urbanization in West Africa, most of the sub region’s population relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture and other natural resources directly affected by the vagaries of nature. The growing frequency and severity of extreme events such as droughts, floods, and heat waves, along with shifting rainfall patterns, threaten to overwhelm the natural resilience of West African communities, risking livelihoods and food security. Subsistence farming is the mainstay of communities that experience shocks and stressors arising from migration, drought and sometimes flooding. Overdependence on rain-fed agriculture, small farm sizes, low technology, inadequate start-up capital, and the non-existence of value addition tend to increase vulnerability to food insecurity as a result of poor knowledge about how to prepare nutritious local recipes. Thus, locally available rich foods are not optimized. Lack of direct access to buyers, poor smallholder cohesion, lack of inputs, and low price leverage all affect the farmer’s income. The fallows, which traditionally restored soil fertility and reduced the buildup of pests and diseases, are disappearing from the agricultural landscape. The soil resource is being degraded, with a consequent reduction in crop yield. Presently the challenge of improving productivity without compromising sustainability is so large that farmers will need to combine gains from improved germplasm with complementary improvements in their management of soil fertility.

Innovation Challenge: This challenge seeks solutions that disrupt the status quo by substantially building agency of smallholder farmers to have more control over efficient agricultural production processes, marketing and consumption of local foods, and soil fertility management. We are seeking novel ideas or approaches that can address the following:

  • Low cost environmentally friendly approaches to increase yield per acreage by improving access to markets. Initiatives can include group-based access to markets, ICT-based market platforms, women friendly market access options, etc
  • Piloting, evaluating and scaling innovations to enhance opportunities for value addition to locally available foods. Initiatives can include alternative packages of assistance to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) attempting to anticipate and take advantage of the growing markets for processed and perishable foods.
  • Small-scale processing technology that is user friendly and adds value to indigenous locally produced crops, e.g., millet, fonio, groundnuts, etc.
  • Indigenous technologies for food preservation.
  • Models or approaches appropriate for integrated soil fertility management and maximizing the use of agricultural waste so as to improve the incomes of smallholder farmers

2. Improve Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Health (WASH)

WASH is a major aspect of the health of the people across Ghana. The ever-increasing population, driven by high birth rates and in-migration, has outstripped residential and social amenities, water resources, and the capacity of sanitation and hygiene infrastructure. This has led to an overall deterioration in the quality of the environment. Over the years, significant investments by government in water, waste management, sanitation and hygiene have not translated into ensuring sustainable availability and access to sufficient water of good quality. Organizations working to promote WASH are challenged by deplorable attitudes, behaviours, and practices in the urban and peri-urban areas. Use of untreated wastewater for vegetable farming is widespread across the metropolis

Innovation Challenge: We are seeking innovative solutions to develop models and approaches for improving behaviours and attitudes while creating innovative technologies to promoting WASH. These interventions would engage the community by leveraging existing traditional platforms for community engagement. Some innovative solutions may include:

  • Models and approaches or technologies for promoting sustainable water supply that would reduce vulnerability to household water shortage and promote opportunities for multiple uses of water. Initiatives can include water reuse and rainwater harvesting for homes and institutions.
  • Models and approaches or technologies for promoting sustainable solid and liquid waste management to reduce vulnerability of households to communicable diseases and in a manner that also builds bridges for agricultural production
  • Models and approaches for promoting and catalyzing health and improving health-seeking behaviour.

3. Promote Livelihood Diversification & Financial Inclusion

Entrepreneurship is important to the economic and social development of a community. Through innovation, entrepreneurs create new, competitive markets and businesses. This leads to job creation, which has a multiplying effect on the economy. Potential entrepreneurs in West African communities (particularly Ghana) are constrained by the lack of entrepreneurial skills and the limited access to finance/start-up capital. The Government of Ghana’s Microfinance and Small Loans Centre has a mission “to provide micro and small loans for start-ups and small businesses with fast, easy and accessible microcredit and small loans to grow and expand their businesses as well as to enhance job and wealth creation”. But its services do not reach majority of those most in need. Other microcredit facilities also follow the line of traditional lending institutions by demanding collateral for borrowing. Existing entrepreneurship skills development programs are also few and not well focused. Upgrading skills can be a key channel to improve productivity and incomes in the informal economy and open opportunities to link with the formal economy.

Innovation Challenge: We are looking for innovations that can develop models and approaches or technologies for promoting life and entrepreneurship skills in target communities, Tamale, Navrongo and Ashaiman. With coordinated support, interventions on this platform can greatly benefit from existing financial services for business start-ups. Innovative ideas include

  • Models and approaches or technologies for promoting life and entrepreneurship skills that would reduce vulnerability to food insecurity and promote opportunities for diversified livelihoods taking into account specific contexts in target communities
  • Models and approaches or technologies for supporting local business ideas to grow into viable alternative livelihood enterprises.

Applicants must be pursuing an undergraduate or graduate academic program at the University for Development Studies (UDS). The project must be student initiated, student led, and in line with the thematic focus on resilience in the face of rapid urbanisation.  Faculty, staff, and external partners may only play an advisory role for student teams. The call is open to students from any discipline at UDS. More information about the WARILab’s area of focus is available in the ‘The State of African Resilience: Understanding dimensions of vulnerability and adaptability’ report that is accessible at

Students who are not registered with UDS are ineligible to apply. Other students ineligible to apply include any individuals participating in, linked to, or sponsoring subversive activities including criminal acts, terrorism or related activities. A responsibility determination will be conducted on all teams applying for the grants for their status regarding United States Government (USG) sanctioned individuals and entities. In addition, all teams are bound by all provisions of the RAN Cooperative Agreement which flow down to any subsequent sub-awards. This also includes title to and use of Intangible (Intellectual) Property where “Intangible Property” means, but is not limited to, copyrights, inventions and patents, and data first produced under the RAN Cooperative Agreement. Intangible property is subject to the requirements set forth in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations on Administration of Assistance Awards to U.S. Non-Governmental Organizations (22 CFR 226.36)

Apply Here before January 20, 2017