Osman Yaah wins prestigious 2024 President Bio Innovation Award

June 26, 2024

Osman Yaah, of Auto Smart Irrigation and Energy Solutions receiving his award from the Chief Minister, Dr. David Sengeh

UNDP Sierra Leone/Desmonda Aminata Cole

Osman Yaah, an alumnus of the UNDP's Accelerator Lab, has won the esteemed 2024 President Bio Innovation Award for his revolutionary Auto Smart Irrigation and Energy Solutions. This innovative agriculture solution has earned him the Presidential Star Prize of $30,000 United States dollars, which will be used to scale up his project and make it accessible to more Sierra Leonean farmers.

Osman Yaah's Auto Smart Irrigation and Energy solution was selected from a pool of innovative projects showcased at the 2024 Sierra Leone Innovates: Agriculture Innovation Challenge. The challenge was organized by the Ministry of Communication, Technology, and Innovation in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Youth Affairs.

UNDP's Accelerator Lab- where ideas like Osman's become sustainable solutions 

In 2019, Osman participated in a challenge by the UNDP Sierra Leone Social Good Summit, a collaborative initiative between UNDP Sierra Leone, the Government of Sierra Leone, and other partners. He submitted his idea for the Youth Innovation Competition in Agriculture, which sought innovative solutions to enhance agricultural productivity and food systems while promoting environmental protection. Osman's idea, focused on enhancing irrigation and energy management, won the competition's top prize in the country.

The UNDP's Accelerator Lab then supported Osman in transforming his idea into a reality.  He was selected for the Lab's incubation programme, where he received mentorship from experts and refined his concept. 

This according to Osman, the guidance from the Accelerator Lab helped him to develop a prototype. He said, "The guidance from the Accelerator Lab was instrumental in developing a functional prototype of our Auto Smart Irrigation and Energy system. Their support helped us transform a concept into a practical, scalable solution for smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone."

Osman Yaah, of Auto Smart Irrigation and Energy Solutions pitching his innovative solution.

UNDP Sierra Leone/Desmonda Aminata Cole

The Auto Smart Irrigation and Energy system 

The Auto Smart Irrigation and Energy system revolutionizes irrigation by using solar power and bamboo, making it eco-friendly and sustainable. This innovative system includes a GSM Control Feature, allowing farmers to monitor and manage irrigation through USSD codes without needing smartphones or internet connectivity. This technology ensures optimal water usage and significantly reduces energy consumption. It empowers farmers to achieve year-round cultivation, boosting crop yields and promoting sustainable farming practices. The system is accessible to smallholder farmers via a pre-financing and leasing model, transforming traditional farming methods and contributing to environmental conservation. By integrating technology with sustainable resources, this system addresses the critical needs of farmers in Sierra Leone, enhancing productivity and supporting the community.

The Auto Smart Irrigation and Energy Solution in operation.

Auto Smart Irrigation and Energy Solutions

Accelerating the Auto Smart Irrigation and Energy system

To further accelerate his innovation, Osman participated in the Orange Social Venture Challenge, winning first place in 2022. He also secured first place at the Freetown Pitch Night. In 2023, he was selected as one of 20 startups by the Sierra Leone Economic Diversification project. Additionally, Osman became a Youth Ecopreneur Finalist in 2024, solidifying his position as a leading young innovator in the country.

Osman and his team plan to expand the system to an additional 25 acres, benefiting 50 smallholder farmers. Partnerships with the government and NGOs will ensure widespread implementation, while targeted training programmes will enhance farmers' capabilities. Their pre-financing and leasing model makes the system affordable for smallholders. Regular impact assessments and feedback mechanisms will drive continuous improvement, aiming to boost our productivity, sustainability, and economic empowerment for farmers.

Martin Dainbaquee, the first runner-up receiving his award from the Senior Minister Dr. David Sengeh

UNDP Sierra Leone/Desmonda Aminata Cole

Martin Dainbaquee, also an alumnus of the UNDP Acceleration Lab was the First Runner Up and received $20,000 United States dollars as his prize, whiles Kumba Florence took home 10,000 United States dollars as the Second Runner Up.

About the UNDP Accelerator Labs

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Accelerator Labs is the world’s largest and fastest learning network on wicked sustainable development challenges. Co-built as a joint venture with the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany and the Qatar Fund for Development, along with Partners at Core for UNDP, the Italian Ministry of Environment and Energy Security as action partner, and the Japan Cabinet, the Network covers 115 countries, and taps into local innovations to create actionable intelligence and reimagine sustainable development for the 21st century. The Network has been awarded Apolitical’s Public Service Team of the Year in 2019, covered in the MIT Sloan Review (2020), analyzed as a Harvard Business School Case Study (2022) and depicted in “For Tomorrow,” a documentary on grassroots innovation, available on Amazon Prime.

The award winners with the government officials

UNDP Sierra Leone/Desmonda Aminata Cole