Food Technology Centers Help Improve Peanut Production in Malawi

Last summer we celebrated the launch of a farmer owned and operated Food Technology Center (FTC) in central Malawi. FTC farmer members own a suite of peanut processing technologies that are available for farmers in the community to rent for a small fee. With this rental and fee-for-service business model, 2,000 farmers benefit from access to these postharvest processing tools.

This summer, we are launching a second FTC in southern Malawi to coincide with the beginning of peanut harvesting season, immediately providing access to much-needed peanut processing tools, impacting another 1,800 people in the region with an increased supply of nutritious food.

Peanuts are one of the most important crops in Malawi. They are nutritious and are widely grown by smallholder farmers throughout the country. Peanuts are traditionally farmed by women yet limited investment for small-scale farm production means the process of shelling the peanuts is still commonly done by hand. A lack of resources and training for many farmers growing peanuts means there are high postharvest losses, inefficient production, and an elevated risk of foodborne illnesses.

Investing in Business Potential of Malawi Peanut Farmers

The FTC addresses many of the challenges that farmers face in peanut production. Among the technologies available at the FTC is Bountifield’s Peanut Sheller which is 15x more efficient than shelling peanuts by hand. This tool not only reduces the amount of time it takes to shell peanuts, but the faster shelling method also decreases the spread of bacteria and contaminants such as aflatoxin.

In addition to tools, the FTC supports farmers with more entrepreneurial opportunities to increase incomes – including supporting rental business ventures where tools are rented to farmers from nearby villages. This means that each tool is available to more farmers in what we call a one-to-many approach.

Two hundred FTC members, over half of whom were women, recently took part in a business management training to build skills for running a profitable business. Training topics included care and management of the peanut processing tools, profit and loss analysis, pricing models for peanut processing services, marketing and promotion, and cash flow management.

More trainings will be provided soon to the farmer members including a food safety training with a locally hired food scientist. This session will teach farmers best practices for food handling and storage.

Quote: “The training was an eye opener as it has prepared us well to start a business before even getting the tools,” said one of the business management trainees.

These business trainings, along with the peanut processing technologies, help support rural communities to more efficiently process and save higher quality food. By doing so, communities can strengthen their own local food systems and increase availability of nutritious food in markets.

But this is only just scratching the surface. Smallholder farmers account for 80 percent of the population of Malawi and 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. If we can reach more of these farmers with the ability to process, save, and sell more food, we could see a huge increase in the availability of locally sourced food across the nation.