Malawi – Peace Corps
Brian Conners the Assistant Peace Corps Country Director or Malawi has written us of the amazing impact that The Full Belly Project is having in Malawi. The email below speaks volumes for what sort of change we are making with your support!
Tuesday August 7, 2007
I’ve been away on Leave, followed by a training so I haven’t had time to let you know how things are going with the sheller. I got the three sets of parts you sent the other day and this afternoon I walked them over to the metal shop but the guy was out. Try tomorrow…
The cost will be about $28, and the half bag of cement brings the total cost to about $35 for the whole thing. Add that the value of a few hours over a couple of days and it comes out to be pretty cheap – compared to the lost value of gnuts that have been sitting in storage for months, shelled after being soaked in water (to make them soft).
Here are a couple of recent stories involving the sheller:
New PCV Tim Strong was in the office one day 8 weeks ago and we were talking about the gnuts in his village. His community was looking for a way to raise match funding for a borehole (with funding by the Ambassador’s Special Self Help Fund) – Lots of money needed there! We were standing outside and I pointed to the sheller and told him to take it, as he had a ride to his site that day, and suggested that he introduce it and see if it’d work as a money maker. We talked over some quick strategies for using it to raise the match money.
Tim took the sheller and demoed it to the Village Development Committee (VDC) the next day, and they hashed out a plan to charge people for shelling nuts. As they were demoing the machine a business man from a nearby village walked by and watched. He spoke up and said that he was in the area to buy gnuts, and they told him of their plan. Well, he asked, would you like to shell the nuts I’ve got and I’ll pay you for the work? They agreed, and the upshot of it is this: Last Friday, Tim’s VDC completed their contract with the farmer after shelling 16 TONS OF GNUTS! Again, sixteen tons! They did another contract for another farmer for 7 tons, another for 3 tons, and a final one for 4 tons. Final shelled amount was 30 tons in two months. On Monday they returned the machine to me, but they’ve got their match money in the bank. The shelling money wasn’t enough to cover all the match, but they quickly saw success and gathered to raise the rest of the money in several different ways. Borehole digging starts in early September – first potable water in the village. Once the new parts are made, the VDC is going to make their own machine and continue their work. They have plans to press oil, make gnut butter, and want to try mixing chili with the shells to burn overnight in their farms to try to keep elephants out of their farms. They’ve definitely got a eye on the future now.
This work would only have been possible by a dynamic PCV – all of 5 weeks in the field – a motivated community, and a gnut sheller. I have attached a few pictures here for your pleasure. Tim is the first Volunteer in the village, and he’s a star.
January 4, 2008
Peace Corps Malawi has quickly adopted our technique for creating an alternative cooking fuel. This is done by simply grinding peanut shells down to a fine powder by raising the Universal Nut Sheller’s rotor.
Developing this alternative cooking fuel has truly been an international collaboration. The Full Belly Project sought the expertise from MIT D-Lab’s, Amy Smith who is implementing an alternative charcoal program in Haiti. Smith’s assistance taught us we needed to mix the peanut shell powder with a small amount of cassava flour and water. The flour serves as a binder for the peanut shell briquettes. We transmitted this information to Peace Corps Malawi’s Brian Connors who quickly picked it up and has begun testing the alternative charcoal already.
Take a look, the peanut shell charcoal is being used to cook potatoes.