Location: Wilmington, NC
Title of Volunteer Assignment: Aflatoxin Management in Peanuts
Name of Project: Zambia F2F SPSP
Jock Brandis is the founder and research and development director of Full Belly Project, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that develops and distributes simple income-generating agricultural technologies to support farmers. Randy Shackelford is one of Full Belly Project’s most engaged volunteers.
Jock and Randy were tasked with teaching smallholder peanut farmers from Community Oriented Development Program (CODEP) and Chipata District Farmers Association (CDFA) about the negative health, production, and economic impacts of aflatoxin infestation in peanuts and training them in practical ways to reduce aflatoxin contamination in their peanuts, including various post-harvest handling and storage techniques. Each volunteer was to train 30 people (60 people total), but combined, Jock and Randy directly assisted a total of 394 beneficiaries, 309 of them being women.
Jock and Randy went well beyond their scopes of work. For example, in addition to training farmers from CDFA and CODEP, Jock and Randy also held additional trainings and meetings with Zambia’s Ministry of Agriculture, the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI), Peace Corps volunteers in Chipata, Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO), and with Zasaka, the local agricultural inputs manufacturing company that produces Full Belly Project’s universal nut sheller.
Jock and Randy introduced farmers to Full Bell Project’s universal nut sheller. The farmers were amazed at how much time was saved by using the shelling technology instead of shelling by hand and were excited to know that the device is manufactured locally by Zasaka.
Jock and Randy also introduced farmers to Mobile Assay’s aflatoxin testing kit called the mReader, a new and innovative Lab-on-Mobile-Device platform that can test aflatoxin levels in parts-per-billion (ppb) within 15 minutes on the spot. With this technology Jock and Randy were able to test peanut samples from CDFA and CODEP farmers in what they called “aflatoxin testing tailgates” in the trunk of a jeep. This is the first time this technology has been used in Africa!
What makes Jock and Randy stand out the most is their volunteer spirit. Their work in Chipata did not end at the completion of their F2F assignments. They are committed to working with smallholder peanut farmers in Zambia and increasing the marketability of their peanuts by establishing an “aflatoxin safe certification.” Since returning to the U.S., Jock and Randy have been communicating with the Ministry of Agriculture and COMACO to determine next steps and potential funding opportunities for their continued work. I have also seen heartfelt Facebook posts between Randy and Chipata residents since his return to the U.S., highlighting the great ambassadors that Randy and Jock have been.
Jock and Randy achieved very tangible results during their 3-week assignments in Zambia with CODEP and CDFA. Here is a list of their impacts:
- With the universal nut sheller, shelling a one 50kg bag of peanuts no longer takes 3 days but just 1 hour.
- With the mReader aflatoxin testing kit, farmers can determine the level of aflatoxin in their peanuts in 15 minutes on the farm instead of sending off samples and waiting 3-4 weeks for results.
- Five women’s groups placed orders to buy the universal peanut shellers from Zasaka to use for their own shelling and as an income generating activity by renting the shellers out to other peanut farmers. 3 of these groups have already paid for the shellers.
- Jock and Randy donated the mReader aflatoxin testing kit to Msekera Research Station in Chipata, Eastern Province, Zambia. Msekera has had such high demand from farmers to test their peanuts using the mReader technology (over 150 requests) that the research station has already run out of testing strips and ordered more from Mobile Assay, which is based in Colorado.
- Alex Hansingo, NCBA CLUSA’s Zambia F2F field coordinator, will continue monitoring the impacts of Jock and Randy’s work. Given the tremendous impact they had in just 3 short weeks and in the month and a half since their assignments ended, NCBA CLUSA plans to continue with this follow-up.