14 November 2010

Trying To Get Oil Out Of Peanuts:A Peanut Sheller for Malian Women

Several 'Universal Peanut Shellers'
Enlarge Courtesy David Campbell These Universal Peanut Shellers were invented by Jock Brandis. They're now in 17 countries.
Several 'Universal Peanut Shellers'
Courtesy David Campbell
These Universal Peanut Shellers were invented by Jock Brandis. They're now in 17 countries.
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November 10, 2010
Be careful what kinds of promises you make. That's a warning you might get from Jock Brandis, whose life was changed after he promised some African women he'd help them find a better way to shell their peanut crop.
That promise turned Brandis into a social entrepreneur — a man completely focused on developing better technology for poor farmers in the developing world.
Trying To Get Oil Out Of Peanuts
Some men's minds are drawn to puzzles. The puzzles that intrigue Brandis are deceptively simple: how to remove the shell from a peanut; how to get water from here to there; how to remove cocoa beans from the pod. Or, how to coax the oil from a bunch of peanuts using muscle power and some scraps of metal.
Brandis, who was born in Joost, the Netherlands, ponders this problem in his workshop in Wilmington, N.C., on a recent day. He leans over a workbench, and peers into the borehole of an old auger.
How To Make Something Out Of Nothing
At 64, Brandis is reveling in his second career. He has wispy blond hair, shuffles about his workshop with the disheveled air of an artist whose creations are never quite finished. His machines look like whimsical children's sculptures made from found objects — oil drums and tires. They lie scattered about the ramshackle workshop that is home to the nonprofit Full Belly Project.
Brandis wasn't always a do-gooder. His first career was in the sometimes bloody world of B-movies.
He did lighting for the films you might have seen in college and can now find listed under cult classics, like the legendary Scanners, a thriller about a telekinetic psychopath. Brandis even got some bit parts. But to find him, you have to look closely — within minutes, he's usually dead and out of the picture. The movies taught Brandis something important: how to make something out of nothing.
"You know, the director saying, 'All right, next Thursday, flying saucer flies into the Brooklyn Bridge, here's your budget.' And we say, 'OK.' And you just do it," he says.
A Quiet Agricultural Revolution
That's what he did for a living, until he made that famous promise in 2001. That's when Brandis went to Mali, West Africa, on a lark. He'd decided to help a friend build a drinking water project. He noticed African women shelling thousands of peanuts by hand. It was slow, painful work that made their fingers bleed. Before he left the country, he made a promise that he was going to send them back a peanut sheller. But he ran into a problem. "When I came back to America to buy it, it didn't exist," he says.
Senegalese villagers use the peanut sheller.
Courtesy David Campbell Senegalese villagers use the peanut sheller. The invention allows them to shell hundreds of peanuts at once, instead of one by one by hand.
There were no small-scale peanut shellers. So Brandis used his can-do chutzpah to cook up a gizmo that is powering a quiet agricultural revolution in 17 countries.
All over the workshop, you can find versions of Brandis' most famous creation: the Universal Nut Sheller.
While assistant Hansen climbs onto a bicycle seat and pedals away, Brandis pours in handful after handful of peanuts. Shelled, unbruised peanuts rain down out of a chute. "And this machine can do a ton of peanuts a day quite easily," Brandis boasts.
He says that villagers with their own sheller go from subsistence farmers dependent on middlemen to independent business people.
They can shell as much as they need for market, and keep the rest fresh in their shells.
Rick Brandenburg, who teaches at North Carolina State University, says "the price can double if you can get them to the market at the right time. It allows them to market their crop when the price is right."
Brandenburg says he has seen the sheller raise the incomes and the quality of life of many villagers.
by Larry Abramson

9 November 2010

Supporting Smallholder Farmers

Women Play a Key Role in Smallholder Agriculture
Three quarters of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas and their livelihoods depend on agriculture. The majority of smallholder farmers in developing countries are women and they are responsible for 60-80% of food production. 
Agriculture is the major productive activity in many developing countries.  Agricultural development is central to the broader fight against poverty, particularly in Africa. Limited technology and training, difficulties related to land ownership and tenure, as well as the effects of climate change, environmental degradation and HIV/AIDS, all impact upon agricultural production in developing countries. Women’s participation in any plans to improve agriculture and food security is vital, not only because of their role as farmers, but also because they look after the health and nutrition of their families. Issues such as women’s access to land and credit as well as their role in agricultural diversification for improved household nutrition are increasingly being factored into programmes which address agricultural production by governments and NGOs. 
It is closely related to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Growing crops and rearing animals involves use and management of the natural resource base and is closely related to environmental sustainability. Adequate food supplies are essential to good nutrition and health – including maternal and child health. Proper nourishment is also essential to the mitigation of the effects of HIV/AIDS. Agriculture often provides the income which is used to support children at school.
Ireland’s ResponseIrish Aid is committed to enabling and assisting sustainable pro-poor economic growth through support for rural development and agriculture. We support measures to improve the production and efficiency of agriculture in partner countries in Africa through additional funding for rural infrastructure, water management, research and sustainable land management initiatives.
• Irish Aid provides funding to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). This is a strategic alliance of fifteen agricultural research centres which together work to foster agricultural productivity, achieve sustainable food security, improve nutrition and reduce poverty in developing countries. 
• In Tanzania Irish Aid supports the Governments Agriculture Sector Development Programme which aims to enable farmers to have better access to and use of agricultural knowledge, technologies, marketing systems and infrastructure, all of which contribute to higher productivity, profitability and farm incomes.
• With Irish Aid support, In Malawi, 1.6 million smallholder farmers have been able to purchase fertiliser and improved seeds through the Government Farm Input Subsidy programme. In 2009, only 10% of households had less than adequate food consumption, down from 38% in 2007. For more on Irish Aid’s support to smallholder farmers in Malawi please read Sharon and Peter’s story below.
Sharon and Peter’s Story
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Sharon Bomba and Peter Cornodi are smallholder farmers in Malawi. As members of the Irish Aid supported Government farm inputs subsidy programme they and their families have benefitted from improved availability of essential farm supplies. Read More

VC4Africa starts the first African online venture capital matchmaking platform.

Press Release: VC4Africa matches entrepreneurs and investors in Africa

November 9th 2010
Today VC4Africa starts the first African online venture capital matchmaking platform.
Many investors are looking for businesses to get involved with but have difficulties finding promise. At the same time many businesses seek knowledge, capital and practical support. Without matchmaking their potential is never realized, hindering economic growth.
The VC4Africa community currently consists of 10.000 members worldwide. Business ideas have been registered through the website and entrepreneurs are seeing benefit. VC4Africa works to visualize the continent’s business potential. VC4Africa has the ultimate goal to contribute to a paradigm shift focusing on transparency and entrepreneurship as a leading agents for development. VC4Africa wants to become the one-stop shop for African business development.
VC4Africa is a truly global initiative with the team working from Cameroon, Kenya, The Netherlands and the USA. Events (or what the community calls VC4Africa Meetups) have already been hosted in Kigali, Kampala, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Lagos, Tunis, San Francisco, Atlanta, Washington DC, New York, London and Amsterdam.
Due diligence is a limitation factor for investors interested in Africa. It costs too much time and capital to find genuine entrepreneurs with a solid business idea and plan. As a result, most existing funds seek large deals and better margins. MicroCredit is limited in its ability to support high growth businesses, this results in entrepreneurs with potential, struggling on the sideline.
VC4Africa solves these issues by applying innovative technology that leverages the power of the crowd. Anyone anywhere in the world is able to positively contribute to the development of African businesses with their own competencies and interests.
Open up! Now is the time. Let’s connect!

About VC4Africa
VC4Africa is an initiave by Ben White (Founder, Amsterdam), Bill Zimmerman (Founder ActivSpaces, Cameroon) and Bart Lacroix (Founder 1%Club, Amsterdam).
VC4Africa is an online community dedicated to connecting innovative, Africa-based entrepreneurs (and their ideas) with access to knowledge, markets and capital— i.e. mentors, business partners and investors. The focus is on entrepreneurs with innovative projects that apply new technology, new media, the web, mobile and green energy.

4 November 2010

In the Congo Brazzaville, the first agricultural villages are bearing fruit

With a harvest of 2.000 tonnes of cassava expected in late-November, the new agricultural villages represent a hope for the Congolese state in the reduction of food imports, valued at $60 million per year. Therefore, between 2011 and 2015, the state is planning to inject approximately $80 million per year in the budget for agriculture, either 1.3 percent of the national budget.
Construction of two new agricultural villages, in Odziba and Imvouba, started in October 2010 in the same agricultural basin and they should be completed by February 2011. These villages will be used for rearing chicks and animal feed industry.
Agricultural villages - a model of success
Nkouo is one of three new farming villages that the government already built in the agricultural basin of IgniƩ, in the Pool, in the north of Brazzaville. There are still two villages under construction.
When the farming village of Nkouo was built in 2009 by the Congolese company for modernization, the government gave these livestock farms to young Congolese i.e. 40 young families selected from 358 applicants.
According to Jean Claude Elombila, national coordinator of agricultural villages, these families work for their own profit and are only obliged to deliver results.
An innovative way to develop the agricultural sector for the authorities
The state gave 792 young hens and two hectares of cassava to each of these villages. These 40 families live in houses built by the state. The state invested a total of $26 million in the project. Everything is free, the farmers only pay water and electricity.
By creating farming villages, the government wants to professionalize agriculture, because almost no company is interested in this sector in the country. Official records noted that only one percent of the companies created in 2009 were interested in agriculture, while 74 percent of them are engaged in trade, especially in imports of food products.
Only two percent of 10.000 hectares of arable land are exploited according the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The objective of the project is to implement modern agro-pastoral villages in the rural areas that would be inhabited by several families, forming multi-sectoral, homogeneous as well as organized and successful communities.
Reducing food imports
With this village, an important step has been taken in the reduction of the Congolese food imports, estimated at about 130 billion CFA francs per year. The farming village of Nkouo is meant to provide the market in Brazzaville and other locations with quality chickens and eggs at low prices.
Besides houses, there will be a primary school, a health center, a library, community playgrounds, a community hangar, networks of electricity and water supply, a system of public lighting, roads, a livestock feed factory and a central storage.
Outside Nkouo, the project involves the construction of two other villages in Imvouba and Odziba (Pool), which will specialize in raising chickens and pigs.
The Government has decided to inject 40 billion CFA francs per annum in the agricultural sector during the next four years. After the Pool, the Government envisages the construction of agricultural villages in other counties.

First Africa Energy Week Highlights Importance of Clean Energy

The first All-Africa Energy Week got underway in Maputo, Mozambique, this week with emphasis on the importance of clean energy for sustainable development.
Energy sector specialists and African decision-makers are participating in the 1-5 November event jointly organized by the African Union, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and hosted by the Mozambican government.
The meeting will prepare and approve recommendations covering continental policies, programmes and priority projects in the energy sector.
Opening the meeting, Mozambique's Prime Minister, Aires Ali, emphasized the importance of clean and environment-friendly energy. "Our challenge must always be intensifying actions in order to develop our resources in a rational way for people's benefit from clean and environmentally friendly energy resources," Mr. Ali said.
Addressing the participants on behalf of Bobby Pittman, AfDB Vice-President for Infrastructure, Regional Integration and Private Sector, the Bank's energy Division Manager, Amadou Thierno Diallo, said that the meeting would establish a platform to take stock of what has been achieved and planned in the development of energy infrastructure and services.
He underscored Africa's recent economic growth and its resilience to the economic crisis. "Although Africa contributes only 4% of global CO2 emissions, the prevailing pattern of energy production and consumption on the continent is unsustainable for our forests," he said, adding that Africa's efforts must be focused on energy access and efficient utilization of its resources.
He expressed the AfDB's commitment to develop renewable energy sources, saying that "the institution strives to be the lead financier for increasing access to energy for Africa, in ways that support a low-carbon development path on the continent."
UNECA representative, Antonio Pedro, referred to infrastructure development as "a key requirement to realize economic growth" and emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships to tap Africa's huge energy potential.

Yvan Cliche

From Bamboo Bikes To Biomass Briquettes: UNEP Unveils Seed Award Winners

From Bamboo Bikes To Biomass Briquettes: UNEP Unveils Seed Award Winners
Nairobi, 3 November 2010 - A novel solar device that turns waste heat into electricity in rural China, a Ugandan business that manufactures stationary from agricultural waste, a bamboo bicycle project in Ghana and a female-run business in South Africa making a hand-held laundry device that saves water are among the 30 winners of the 2010 SEED Awards, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today.
The SEED Awards recognise inspiring social and environmental entrepreneurs whose businesses can help meet sustainable development challenges. By helping entrepreneurs to scale-up their activities, the SEED Initiative, which is hosted by UNEP, aims to boost local economies and tackle poverty, while promoting the sustainable use of resources and ecosystems.
This year, in addition to seeking innovative start-ups throughout the developing world, the SEED Awards had a special focus on Africa, placing particular emphasis on initiatives from South Africa, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Egypt, Ghana, Rwanda and Senegal. This focus was part of a larger project linked with UNEP's Green Economy Initiative and was funded largely by the European Union.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said:" The SEED Award winners exemplify the strong spirit of entrepreneurship in the developing world and its significance in creating a Green Economy. While the Awards recognize individual outstanding projects, governments must also show leadership in supporting grassroots efforts through diverse and dynamic standards, forward-looking policies and incentives to further catalyze corporate and community-led change."
All the SEED winners will be honoured at award ceremonies in their home countries. The prize they will receive from SEED is a package of individually-tailored support for their business. This includes access to relevant expertise and technical assistance, meeting new partners and building networks, developing business plans and identifying sources of finance. SEED will furthermore contribute towards meeting each winner's most immediate needs by contributing to a jointly developed support plan.
The 2010 call for proposals saw applications from just under 60 countries, representing the collaborative efforts of non-governmental organizations, women's and youth groups, labour organisations, public authorities, international agencies and academia. While most of the applications were in the agriculture and rural development sector, many entries addressed issues around climate change and energy, the conservation of biodiversity, and waste management. The selection of the winners was by an independent International Jury of experts.
The 2010 SEED Award winners (by country):
Burkina Faso:
"Manufacture and Popularization of Biomass Briquettes". Aiming to replace wood and charcoal with biomass briquettes from fallen leaves and other sources of unused biomass, this progressive enterprise of local and international NGOs and a research institution helps to combat desertification, create jobs in rural communities and raise awareness for alternative energy sources.
"Initiative for Promoting and Distributing Bio-Pesticides". The initiative's ambitious goal is to promote and distribute ecological pest control for organic crops, especially cotton, vegetable and oil-producing crops. In this way, the partnership of local and community-based organisations and research agencies hopes to increase yields and preserve the production environment.
"ORIBAGS INNOVATIONS (U) LTD" is a private enterprise initiated by a research institution and local NGO to manufacture hand-made paper bags, printing paper and jewellery from agricultural wastes including wheat straw, elephant grass and other natural fibres. Oribags offers an eco-friendly alternative to polythene bags and empowers women entrepreneurs.
All winners can be found on the SEED website at http://www.seedinit.org

Planned GDF Suez' Cameroon Refinery To Produce 3.5Mln Tons LNG Yearly-Official

YAOUNDE, Cameroon -(Dow Jones)- The planned liquefied natural gas plant which French energy firm GDF Suez SA (GSZ.FR) plans to build in Cameroon is projected to produce an estimated 3.5 million tons of LNG per year, a senior official of the African nation's National Hydrocarbons Corporation, or SNH, told Dow Jones Newswires Wednesday.
The GDF Suez plans to build an onshore LNG processing plant in Cameroon's Atlantic coastal town of Kribi, located some 300 kilometers southwest of Yaounde beginning 2011.
The chief executive officer of GDF Global LNG Philippe Olivier held talks on the project with Cameroon's President Paul Biya last October, after which he announced that his company will be investing $5 billion for the project.
"GDF Suez is expecting to produce an estimated 3.5 million tons of liquefied natural gas from the refinery by the time they start production in 2014," said an official of the SNH involved in the project.
The state-run SNH, which manages and markets Cameroon's oil and gas, is working in close collaboration with the French firm and temporarily hosts its Cameroon office.
"This gas will be sold in Cameroon and the international markets," added then official, who preferred to speak anonymously.
-By Emmanuel Tumanjong, contributing to Dow Jones Newswires; +237-9655-6261 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +237-9655-6261      end_of_the_skype_highlighting; tnuel@yahoo.com