New technology and 'TRIZ' solutions are key to food security

James Butcher, executive vice president of Chemonics, explains why first generalizing a problem can lead to innovative solutions in a local context.

As the food security sector evolves, Chemonics has seen some of its biggest impact with value chain facilitation, according to James Butcher, executive vice president of the development consulting company.

Butcher pointed to work with coffee growers in Rwanda, where post-conflict economic growth was hugely important, as an example of work and donor money well-spent, and where quality improvement and new technology implementation allowed growers to eventually get their coffee into European and U.S. markets.

“The other thing we see is that the introduction of new technologies from the developed world or from other developing country contexts has really allowed for a leapfrogging effect to occur,” Butcher said, naming microinsurance as an example of a service that is now much more widely available.

And innovation in the sector doesn’t necessarily mean brand new ideas, Butcher said. TRIZ is a method of taking a specific problem, generalizing it and looking at other countries or industries to see where else those problems are happening. Often, general solutions exist that can be adapted to a local context, he said.

Watch the video to hear more about TRIZ and where it’s worked. And read Butcher's op-ed for Feeding development here.

Want to learn more? Check out Feeding Development's campaign site and tweet us using #FeedingDev.

Feeding Development is an online conversation hosted by Devex in partnership with ACDI/VOCA, Chemonics, Fintrac, GAIN, Nestlé and Tetra Tech to reimagine solutions for a food-secure future from seed and soil to a healthy meal.

About the author

  • Kelli Rogers

    Kelli Rogers is an Associate Editor for Devex. Based on the U.S. West Coast, she works with Devex's team of correspondents and editors around the world, with a particular focus on gender. She previously worked as Devex’s Southeast Asia correspondent based in Bangkok, covering disaster and crisis response, resilience, women’s rights, and climate change throughout the region. Prior to that, she reported on social and environmental issues from Nairobi, Kenya. Kelli holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and has since reported from more than 20 countries.