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Feb 25, 2020

From Farm Talk Radio to Peanut Butter in Stores

COMACO Farm Talk Farmer Cooperative
COMACO Farm Talk Farmer Cooperative

We realised that one of the things we’ve spoken little about when it comes to Farm Talk and our radios is how farmers are growing crops not just for themselves and their families, but also for commercial sale. Using the principles of sustainable agriculture, farmers produce a surplus to sell for profit. We’d like to share with you how the COMACO process works.

Farmers cooperatives all across the Luangwa Valley in Eastern Zambia listen to Farm Talk on our Prime radios or Lifeplayer MP3s.  They learn how to grow various crops using conservation farming methods.  The collectives sell their pesticide-free crops at a premium price, such as peanuts to COMACO buyers, for example.

The peanuts, or ground nuts as they are called locally, are taken in large bags to the peanut butter processing located behind COMACO offices in Chipata (known as Fort Jameson during British colonial times).  COMACO’s peanut processing plant is the largest in Zambia. 

The peanuts are then sorted and shelled by groups of women, who also listen to our Prime radio while working.  The shells are then pressed into briquettes which are used for cooking by a pressing machine.  The briquettes are then sold to locals. This helps to curb deforestation. Zambia has one of the world’s highest rates of deforestation. 

The peanuts are then processed in sanitary conditions into delicious, organic peanut butter free of colourants and preservative and put into jars for sale across Zambia under the It’s Wild brand.  It’s Wild premium peanut butter is then sold in major grocery stores across Zambia.  Given its superb quality, export markets are opening up as well. COMACO produces thousands of jars per month.

CEO and founder, Dr Dale Lewis, said that the COMACO business model unlocks the potential of small-scale farmers.  “The model is workable for both skilled and unskilled farmers. Farmers are exposed to lessons about preserving soils, forest and growing the right crops.”  This approach enables farmers to increase yields to sell any excess for a profit.

 ifeline Energy has been working with COMACO for nearly 10 years to provide access to vital farming information on the weekly Farm Talk programme.  You can be rest assured that your donation to this great project pays dividends in many ways. We’re immensely grateful for your continued support.

Brick made from peanut shells
Brick made from peanut shells
It's Wild Peanut Butter Jars
It's Wild Peanut Butter Jars
Dec 30, 2019

HELP - Serious Storms are Slamming Mozambique - Again

Photo courtesy of our friends at Care Mozambique
Photo courtesy of our friends at Care Mozambique

Not even a year has passed since Mozambique sustained an estimated $3 billion worth of damage after back-to-back cyclones.  Idai struck in March in central Mozambique and Cyclone Kenneth a month later in the north. Hundreds of people were killed, hundreds of thousands displaced, and more than two million were left in need of urgent assistance. 

We have learned from our on-the-ground sources that only a fraction of infrastructure has been rebuilt.  Houses, hospitals, schools and community buildings remain unusable.  Many thousands of families are living in emergency shelters.  Residents are patching up and rebuilding as best they can with what little they have.  Livelihoods are still decimated as farmlands were destroyed and few tourists have returned to bring in fresh cash. Pledges of outside donor funding for longer-term reconstruction has yet to materialise.

Against this backdrop the rains have already been heavy and menacing this season. The rainy season is fully underway and will continue until April.  The fear is that people already suffering from incalculable loss, will continue to do so. 

Heavy rains have already struck Beira in the central area and just this past weekend a powerful storm made landfall  destroying hundreds of makeshift homes and nearly 50 fishing boats in the northern Cabo Del Gado province. The damage is still being calculated as communication is poor. 

The need for our radio-lights remains urgent. Earlier in the year we were only able to send a fraction of the number asked for.  Rural women, especially, don’t have cell phones, cannot afford the data if they did and rely on radio information in a language they understand. 

Several community radio stations were rebuilt after the storm and are broadcasting. The issue remains that people still need a way to hear it.  Community stations are also the most effective way for the government and aid agencies to communicated with weather-affected communities. 

We would be extremely grateful if you would consider continuing to support this highly worthwhile and impactful initiative with our Fenix radio-lights. Few of the affected families had electricity to begin with, but having the light feature helps to see perils at night. 

Dec 16, 2019

1000 Days of Motherhood dispels "old wives' tales"

The Bushes That Grow audio series helps to combat stunting and improve health outcomes in Zambia.  As national broadcasting fees are prohibitively expensive, except on a few community stations, our Lifeplayer MP3s have been successfully used to bring much-needed maternal and child health content to local mothers community groups.  The groups meet once a week when convenient for them and then have time afterwards to discuss the new learnings. 

Produced by the National Food and Nutrition Commission, there are two series of Bushes That Grow and in both they covers common misconceptions and “old wives’ tales”.   There are numerous misconceptions about maternal and child health and some of the biggest are around breastfeeding. 

These include: 

-       In hot weather babies should be given water to keep them from dehydrated

-       Babies should be given cow or goat’s milk (which is hard for babies to digest)

-       Babies should be given milk products (some of which contain sugar)

-       A teaspoon of sugar can be added to water or milk to give a baby more energy

A qualified nurse explains on Bushes That Grow that breastfeeding is one of the best investments in saving lives and improving the health of mothers and babies alike.  She notes that according to research only 40% of all babies under six months were being exclusively breastfed in Zambia.  This is way too low.  Babies should be breastfed for up to 24 months. 

Great strides have been made in Zambia since Bushes That Grow and other initiatives actively encourage breastfeeding.  Our Lifeplayer units support community based groups in deep rural areas across the country, especially in those areas with high rates of stunting.  And Zambia is large country, bigger than the state of Texas.

Please continue to support this great project that helps rural and often illiterate mothers to raise healthy children. Each Lifeplayer unit reaches about 30 mothers directly and mothers birth five children on average. 

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