The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Peanut and Mycotoxin is using peanuts to improve the nutritional status of undernourished pregnant women in Malawi.
Dr. Mark Manary, one of the Lab’s lead scientists and founder of Project Peanut Butter, is identifying and treating severely undernourished pregnant women with a peanut-based Ready-To-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF). Pregnant women are a very vulnerable population in Malawi, where maternal deaths are 1 in 400, the third highest in the world. A large portion of stunting occurs in the womb, which is why good nutrition during pregnancy has a significant impact on a child’s growth potential. There is currently no standardized method to diagnose or treat moderate or severe undernutrition during pregnancy.
Peanuts are an ideal therapeutic food because, in addition to being high in protein, they are almost 50 percent fat or oil, which is a key element in the treatment of acute malnutrition.
“The beauty of the peanut formulation having so much oil in it is that its energy density is very high,” says Dr. Manary. “This means a spoonful of peanut-based food is equal in calories to 5 or 6 spoonfuls of a traditional cereal like corn or rice. If you are undernourished, you need to get those nutrients in you to catch up. The high oil, low water content of this peanut-based food means that it doesn’t spoil sitting around in a mud hut with a grass roof for two or three weeks. The food safety issues here are nominal, whereas if you cooked some kind of specialized porridge or dough and left it sitting around you couldn’t eat it the next day.”
The peanut-based RUTF has been well-received by Malawian women and is very popular.
In December, joining members of civil society, the private sector, donor organizations and other Government of Malawi officials, Malawi’s Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Dr. James Munthali, presided over the country’s official launch of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. Malawi is one of ten African countries that have joined the New Alliance since it was announced by President Obama in 2012.
The launch event was held at Afri-Nut’s groundnut sorting and processing facility in Lilongwe. Afri-Nut is one of 23 companies that submitted Letters of Intent to invest in Malawi’s agriculture sector as part of their participation in the New Alliance. Many of these companies hosted exhibitions at the launch event, including Seed Co, the National Association of Smallholder Farmers of Malawi, Malawi Mangoes, Bio Energy Resources Limited, Ex Agris Africa, Dairiboard, Universal Industries and Rab Processors. These companies represent investments throughout Malawi’s agricultural value chain, from seed production to food processing.
In total, private sector companies have pledged more than $150 million in investments as part of Malawi’s New Alliance Cooperation Framework. This sum is in addition to $495 million pledged by development partners to support agriculture and food security in Malawi over the next three years.
Following the launch, private sector leaders joined senior Government of Malawi officials from a broad range of Ministries for a Public-Private Dialogue to advance commitments under the New Alliance. The Government of Malawi has pledged to move forward on 35 policy actions that will improve food security facilitate growth in Malawi’s agriculture sector. Some of these actions have already progressed, such as the removal of export bans for all crops except maize and rice as well as proposed revisions to Malawi’s Seed Act, which will align the country’s seed regulations with the Southern African Development Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
As part of the dialogue, private sector participants presented case studies with recommendations for policy action around the priority areas of land and water, greater availability of certified seeds, and improved terms for agricultural finance.
As outlined by President Obama at the 2012 G-8 Summit, the New Alliance aims to accelerate responsible investment in African agriculture and lift 50 million people out of poverty by 2022. Benin, Malawi, Nigeria and Senegal all launched Cooperation Frameworks under the New Alliance over the course of 2013.