Ziki is a science buff with a flair for design. The gods of education having smiled favourably upon her, and thanks to her mother's tireless ingenuity, she was bequeathed with a degree in Computer Science, from University of Nairobi. After continued attempts to distill the world into algorithms she found herself, rather by accident, entwined in the environmental sustainability affairs of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) albeit in a technical capacity.
Through her sojourn there she became well versed in the consequences of viewing development and sustainability as polar opposites. She saw how Africa is uniquely positioned to find its place in the developed world having the knowledge to sidestep some of the sustainability pitfalls experienced by her forerunners. Ziki’s current interest (read obsession) is on food - producing and distributing it safely, equitably and sustainably. She also enjoys cooking and eating it.
When she is not ruminating on earthly matters she can be found with a sketchpad and number two pencil honing her design skills, or furiously julienning carrots for her mise somewhere in Nairobi, Kenya. When the time finally comes to rejoin that great cosmic disco - the coordinates of which are yet to be documented; and hopefully they do more than dance and sing all day - she would like inscribed on her tombstone the words: "She wanted to learn, everything."
From this author
An unidentified object hovers over Nairobi's Nyayo Stadium during 2014's Jamuhuri Day celebrations. In a country that has had it's fair share of terror attacks, this sighting is met not so much with wonder as anxiety. The Chief of the Kenya Defense Forces immediately sets out to find who is behind it. It turns out to be a Kenyan media house capturing some aerial shots of the proceedings in advance of the President's arrival. Orders follow that the device be landed immediately. It is brought safely to the ground. What was the cause for all the fuss? A drone. Referred to in other quarters as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs). A vehicle that could drive Kenyan agriculture into the future.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. One of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Attributed to King Nebuchadnezzar II and described by writers of the time as a pensile paradise. Resembling large green mountains constructed of mud bricks; these gardens were the pride of the ancient Babylonians. Legend has it that the King created the gardens for his queen who missed the green hills and valleys of her homeland. Who would have thought that this gesture of affection would set the trend for modern agriculture today? Vertical farming, the act of growing food in high-rise buildings, could change the way we produce food in the future.
One evening, as Calvince Okello -the creator of M-shamba - was watching the news at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology where he studied biomechanical and processing engineering, a particular feature left him at his wits end. The Eastern part of Kenya was suffering from severe famine while the Western part had registered a bumper harvest with maize even rotting on farms. This stark contrast of pockets plenty amidst areas of serious lack was enough to push Calvince to think of a solution. He attended a lecture the following day that would set M-shamba in motion.
Kenya is still in the throes of the genetically modified (GM) debate. The long-term safety of the consumption of GM foods has spurred Kenya into a state of caution from which it is yet to recover. But as Kenya continues to grapple with how best to grow her food, across the Atlantic someone is questioning the very need for food. Meet Robert Rhinehart. South Carolina based software engineer and creator of Soylent - a powdered meal replacement. All an average adult’s nutrition needs in one small bag, the food of the future.