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OSU student wins $30,000 from Nescafé Get Started Project

An Oklahoma State University student was named the winner of the Nescafé Get Started Project funded by Nestlé, which inspires young African entrepreneurs to create ideas to help society.

An Oklahoma State University student was named the winner of the Nescafé Get Started Project funded by Nestlé, which inspires young African entrepreneurs to create ideas to help society.

Kortoumou Sidibé, an agricultural business senior who is originally from Mali, Africa, was awarded $30,000 to fund her project to help remove food insecurity in her home country, then work towards other parts of Africa.

Sidibé said her dream for this project began after she learned about the vast amount of food waste in Africa caused by improper conservation, harvest and transportation. The food waste is not from cooking but from fresh produce that is unable to be stored because most Africans do not have refrigeration.

“I became passionate about this because women are important to African society,” she said. “Providing a way to recycle and make the country’s economy better makes more profit for women and a better lifestyle for the kids.”

Tim Bowser, food engineer for OSU’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center, is assisting Sidibé with the logistics of the project. FAPC, a part of the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, is known for helping small food entrepreneurs turn their ideas into reality.

“Reduction and reuse or food waste is a very important issue in some parts of Africa,” he said. “It can be a matter of life or death for many, especially farmers. Her plans would help make the food supply more stable.”

Sidibé plans to build her own food transformation facility with the funds she received from the contest. She also has studied different types of materials to help with conservation.

“After we discussed her goals for the project, we got to work making it happen,” Bowser said.

The facility will have two parts, transformation and administration.

During transformation, food, which is purchased from small farmers to help increase profits, will be processed and packaged for longer shelf life.

“I will buy the food waste that would be thrown away at low cost,” Sidibé said. “I will make the veggies into spices that women can use to cook and the fruits will be jams or jellies.”

On the administrative side, the facility will function as a school for farmers and merchants to teach resource management and how to avoid food waste from harvest to commercialization. It also will help participants learn how to maximize profit and advertise their products.

“Power and clean water are required to make this project feasible,” Bowser said. “Fortunately, Sidibé has both available at the proposed site for her facility. She can use bioenergy and solar energy for most processes.”

Sidibé’s end goals are to provide quality food at affordable prices, develop rural areas and reduce food waste. This will, in turn, increase income to help with growth in Africa.

“I know she will be successful in whatever she decides to do,” Bowser said. “She had no qualms about getting hands-on in the process. She is a hardworking young lady and a quick learner.”

The Nescafé Get Started Project challenge started with nearly 2,000 ideas in the areas of technology, health, culture, community development and environment. Four finalists were selected through a multi-stage voting process, which included a public vote on the Nescafé Facebook page and nine West African influencers. Finally, the finalists presented their business ideas to a jury of African entrepreneurs, where the winner was selected.