Getting the Most of Out of Groundnuts in Senegal

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

This is the first blog in a series about Action Aid’s work in Senegal.

They are found on nearly every street corner in Western Africa—freshly roasted groundnuts are sold in small plastic bags or by the handful as a quick, protein-rich snack. These small nuts—which are technically legumes—have had a big influence on Africa. “Groundnuts,” says Moussa Faye, of Action Aid Senegal, “have made the wealth of this country.” But he explained that they’ve also created “poverty because of a crisis in groundnut sector after it was liberalized” by the government. One of Action Aid’s priorities in Senegal is to help groundnut farmers collectives find better ways to grow, process, and sell groundnuts and groundnut products. 

When they first started working with groundnut farmers in 2004, according to Faye, there were no good quality seeds available. To solve this problem, Action Aid worked with farmers to develop a seed multiplication program, which Faye says, has been more successful than the government’s seed multiplication program. Why? Because Action Aid’s program involved farmers. They helped groundnut farmers build a stronger network through the national groundnut platform, giving farmers groups the opportunity to communicate with government officials.

And Action Aid is helping link farmers to transporters and processors for groundnuts. Action Aid is also helping correct misconceptions about groundnut production. He says “it’s not just a cash crop, but a food crop” because so many poor people depend on it as an important source of protein. It also serves as the main fodder for horses, cattle, and other livestock—the same animals who help plough groundnut fields. It’s “extremely strategic to have groundnuts that nourish both people and animals,” says Faye. It’s also “not true that [groundnuts] destroy the soil,” according to Faye. Unsustainable farming and harvesting of groundnuts can lead to depletion of carbon in soils.

But when done the right way, groundnut farming can be both profitable and environmentally sustainable. “It’s part of peoples’ cultures,” says Faye, and farmers have mastered innovative ways to grow it. Groundnuts are also well adapted to the hot and dry conditions of Senegal. Farmers are also adding value to groundnuts by processing the crop themselves, instead of selling it to middlemen. In addition to grinding the nuts for butter and paste, farmers are also selling groundnut oil and oil cakes for animal feed. Farmers also developed ovens to burn the shells of the groundnuts for fuel for processing—the shells are very energy efficient, burning up to 12 hours. “Processing brings a lot of profits,” notes Faye and farmers with support from Action Aid are now building small processing plants in rural areas.

Stay tuned for more about Action Aid’s work with farmers in Senegal. Thank you for reading! As you may already know, Danielle Nierenberg is traveling across sub-Saharan Africa visiting organizations and projects that provide environmentally sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty. She has already traveled to over 18 countries and visited 130 projects highlighting stories of hope and success in the region. She will be in Benin next, so stay tuned for more writing, photos and video from her travels.

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In the Fight Against the Spread of HIV/AIDS, There is no Silver Bullet

Cross posted from Border Jumpers, Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack.

In the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS, there is no silver bullet.

And as we travel throughout sub-Saharan Africa we are seeing dozens of innovative ways that organizations, governments, and individuals are working to fight the disease.

One of the organizations that stands out, thanks to their variety of innovative strategies and approaches to combating the spread of the disease, is the Solidarity Center , an AFL-CIO affiliated non-profit organization that assists workers around the world who are struggling to build democratic and independent trade unions.

We want to share with you three different ways they are making an impact on the ground as we visit projects across the continent.

1) Changing Behavior with Worksite Education and Testing

Johnson Matthey in Germiston , South Africa , just outside of Johannesburg , sees 600 workers pass through its doors every day, heading to work on an assembly lines to make catalytic converters that are inserted in cars to reduce pollution, complying with South Africa 's auto environmental emissions standards.

As we arrived there last January, Percy Nhlapo, a trainer with the Solidarity Center , was leading a discussion with a group of workers, correcting misconceptions about contracting HIV and urging participants to get tested. The Solidarity Center is working in partnership with the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA), an industrial affiliate of the country's largest union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), to provide free HIV/AIDS education and HIV counseling and testing to several thousand manufacturing workers a year (literally going from plant to plant providing trainings).

Following the HIV/AIDS education session, more than 200 workers voluntarily agreed to be tested. At the testing area, we spoke with registered nurse Dorothy Majola, who said that before workers are tested they are given private counseling, and then she administers two separate tests - both with 99.99 percent accuracy - to ensure correct results.

Within ten minutes of being tested, workers receive their results. The companies work in coordination with NUMSA and the Solidarity Center , agreeing to host the HIV/AIDS outreach, allowing workers to attend and get tested at the beginning and end of their work shifts. Before each outreach, shop stewards mobilize their co-workers to participate in the HIV/AIDS activities at their workplace.

2) Curbing the Spread of AIDS Along Transportation Routes

When we arrived at the HIV/AIDS Resource Center in Katuna , Uganda , about 20 long-haul truck drivers were sitting on chairs  and intently watching a match between Manchester United and Chelsea on a small television while they waited for their vehicles to be cleared by customs before entering Rwanda .

But just eight months ago, instead of television, billiards, and camaraderie among workers, the easiest diversion for truckers was sex. Katuna is one of many towns along what is known as the Northern Transport Corridor-a span of highway that stretches from Mombasa , Kenya through Uganda , Rwanda , Burundi , Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and all the way to Djibouti .

In the past, the truckers were often delayed for days on the border, giving them little to do. Boredom--and drinking--often led to unsafe sex with commercial sex workers at the truck stops along the highway. As a result, truck drivers have one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in Eastern Africa . Unfortunately, the virus doesn't stop with them, and is often spread to their spouses.

Now, thanks to the work of the Solidarity Center and Uganda 's Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union (ATGWU), the amount of time truckers spend on the border has been reduced from days to just hours. The union has worked with the government to reduce the amount of time it takes their paperwork to go through, which reduced the amount of free time they have on the border.  When they don't have as much free time waiting for clearance, they're not as likely to engage in unsafe sex.

Additionally, the Katuna resource center, like many others dotted along the transport corridor, offers HIV/AIDS education, and free testing to truck drivers and local community members (directly impacting more than 150,000 workers so far). The Solidarity Center has similar programs in Kenya , Tanzania , Rwanda and Burundi .

3) Helping Orphans who Lost Their Parents to AIDS, by Putting Them Through School

Outside of Harare, Zimbabwe, we visited an orphanage for children whose parents died of AIDS-related illnesses that the Solidarity Center 's partner, the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA), an associate of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), is helping to support.

In addition to providing HIV/AIDS education and HIV counseling and testing to workers, ZCIEA is also providing a way to immediately help the children of parents who've died from the disease.

As we arrived, a hundred children were singing, clapping, and rushing to offer us hugs and high fives. The orphanage provides them not only with a place to learn and go to school, but also gives them a family in a nurturing environment. More than providing meals and a roof, the orphanage is built around the community, and the children are well-supported.

The teachers and caretakers who work there are mostly volunteers from local communities and you can see that they share a deep commitment and passion for the future of these kids. None of this would be possible without the support and efforts of the Zimbabwean labor movement in providing funding and helping to secure outside funding through grants.

Music Without Borders: Senegal
This is a weekly series where we recommend an artist, song, or compilation of songs, from a country in Africa, brought to you by our awesome friends at Awesome Tapes From Africa. Today's selection is from Senegal:

Mbalax is a local musical genre in Senegal; most people have heard of Youssou N'Dour, who is a major artist in that world. Here is another mbalax great, Thione Seck.


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blame hip hop for society's ills, but what of its successes

Previously posted the Young People For Blog.

This is a hot issue now and many people are chiming in. I would just like to piggy back off of the early post titled : A Response to All Hip Hop Apologists. Hip Hop is a topic that is drawing together as well as dividing people. Imus, Al Sharpton, Anderson Cooper, Oprah Winfrey, Snoop Dogg, Cam'ron, Russell Simmons, you, me, and your neighbor are all caught up in this 'issue.' Hip Hop is something that touches us all no matter what your ethnic background, home situation, or city dwelling. Hip Hop consumes you no matter what to think, no matter what you listen to, no matter where you come from.

There's more...


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