We envision an Africa free from hunger, poised to feed the world.
Bountifield fills the gap in food and agriculture with postharvest processing mechanization.
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Small NGO (under 50 employees)
If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
United States of America
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
Central Region of Malawi covers a total area of 35,578 square kilometers.
What country is your selected Place located in?
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
Since 2009, Bountifield International has been active in improving grain legumes value chains in Malawi. With support from the McKnight Foundation and in partnership with the local private sector, ICRISAT, and the Ministry of Agriculture, we developed and introduced labor saving postharvest equipment for dry shelling, grinding and storing groundnuts in smallholder communities. This technology is essential for increasing productivity and efficiency as well as reducing food loss. It decreases the time women spend processing. It reduces the potential for aflatoxin. We recently introduced new motorized threshing equipment for soy (and other crops) in partnership with the Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL).
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
Malawi is a landlocked country in Southern Africa surrounded by Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia. Malawi is known as the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’ for its friendliness and beauty. It is also known as one of the world’s least developed countries, ranking 171 out of 189 countries in the 2018 UN Development Program Human Development Index. Charcoal and wood fuel much of the country’s energy. Electricity and gas are only intermittently available. The economy is based primarily on agriculture - up to 90% of the population draw their livelihoods from agriculture in the form of subsistence farming. Agriculture accounts for 42% of the GDP yet farm productivity is low due to several challenges that include lack of small landholding and limited or no access to productive inputs and services such as seeds and mechanization, credit and extension. Other challenges include periodic floods and drought, which are getting more pronounced with climate change. The main agricultural products of Malawi are tobacco, sugarcane, cotton, tea, maize, potatoes, sorghum, cattle and goats. Its primary export industries have been tea, sugar, coffee and tobacco. Malawian farmers also produce groundnuts and other legumes such as pigeon pea and cowpea and cereals such maize. These ‘staple’ crops are largely produced and consumed locally, in part because of low output and other challenges such as aflatoxin. Malawi food insecure and is a net food importing country. One major problem is food loss; Malawian farmers lack access to basic technology for processing, drying, storing and preserving crops. Regionally, estimates by the African Postharvest Losses Information System are that crop losses in Southern Africa as a whole amount to US$1.6 billion per year.
Because subsistence farming has become increasingly difficult, family members look for off-farm employment or migrate looking for opportunities. Youth, in particular, are at risk and face great difficulty finding employment, particularly in the rural sector. Malawi has some promising developments that help to position the country for growth. For example, the government has recently constructed a new airport and new buildings for business. It is giving priority to regional universities and technical schools in multiple sectors. In food and agriculture, the Government of Malawi has been pursuing investment from the private sector and donors to build up its national food and agricultural markets and create more self-sufficiency. This includes new attention to postharvest and value addition to supply a growing market for larger food buyers and traders who seek more quality supply.
What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)
What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
Some of the challenges with Malawi in 2020 at the national level have been described, including the important shift from tobacco to food security crops such as grain legumes and lack of markets, infrastructure and investment to support this shift.
Grain legumes are nutritious and bring immense untapped potential for Malawi. Groundnut and soy are high in protein, vitamins, and healthy fats. They grow well in hot, dry climates, and groundnuts in particular have nitrogen fixing properties that enhance soil fertility. There are national, regional and international markets for groundnut and soybean—and a national demand for quality nuts that outweighs current supply. Unfortunately, groundnuts and soy produced by smallholders are often contaminated with debris, mold, and aflatoxin, which limit their market potential. Areas with late rains suffer post-harvest contamination. Proper drying procedures and produce handling technologies are necessary to minimize such risk. Smallholder groundnut and soy production is labor-intensive and not mechanized, whereby women contribute a majority of labor (Tsusaka et al., 2016b). These challenges are, in large part, a result of slow technological infusions into the agriculture sector.
There are large-scale buyers and processors who buy grains from farmers to produce human food (such as maize-soy blend, weaning baby food), feed for livestock and cooking vegetable oil. Despite the growing market, there is not enough supply from farmers to meet the current market demand. Lack of postharvest technology is a major problem. So is distribution.
In Malawi as in most of Africa, traditional development projects have focused on small farmers as the primary tool owners and users. This has had varying degrees of success in the marketplace; often failing due to low rates of utilization per tool due to small harvest volumes, poor maintenance due to competing priorities and focus, and an affordability challenge when a tool is to be purchased by an individual family. Moreover, much needed equipment is lacking in the market even for those who can pay.
The opportunity as well as the challenge is to infuse tools, training and marketing packages into national legumes value chains, working with the local African private sector to meet both supply and demand.
By 2050, if we do not in small-scale business development to increase food supply, equity and employment in the rural sector, hunger and poverty will most certainly rise. There will be more migration, particularly for youth, out of the country in search of revenue. An historically peaceful country could be at risk for conflict. A wide range of SDG goals will not have been achieved. Frankly, it is hard to envision the full set of challenges that face Malawi if its already precarious position today worsens.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Bountifield is investing in what is a missing link for growth in food and agriculture across rural sub-Saharan Africa: postharvest processing mechanization for small-scale businesses and new economic opportunity for women and youth. With more technological and business solutions in the rural sector, we can reduce food loss, increase locally sourced food, and diversify small farmers‘ income.
With support from the Food Systems Prize, we will deepen our business case in Malawi where we have been working since 2009 to strengthen the value chains for groundnuts and soy. We will professionalize our offering to small-scale businesses, helping them to develop a quality brand with postharvest equipment for legumes as well a ‘business in a box’ solution so they can develop their market potential through fee for service crop processing and artisanal food processing for surrounding smallholder communities.
A ‘business in a box’ model is new in this value chain space and in the Malawi market. The early adopter entrepreneurs and small businesses of the formalized model will be critical to proving market potential to additional commercial distribution and retail partners for subsequent scale. Bountifield will develop entrepreneurs‘ capacity in customer segmentation, tool management, promotion and marketing, utilization rates, and efficiency as key drivers of profitability and success. The long-term effect will be a proven model for business to supply nutritious and locally sourced food products in the local consumer and institutional markets in Malawi and Southern Africa
Bountifield will professionalize a solutions package for ‘fee for service’ businesses for rural entrepreneurs (women and youth) in Malawi as a sustainable model that can be scaled across Southern Africa. Such a model will include:
- Identification and selection of entrepreneurs
- A ‘Business in a Box’ (BIB) solution that include tools and services for processing legumes.
- A suite of appropriate tools with the BIB solution on credit
- Training of the BIB to entrepreneurs; including 3-5 day ‘boot camps’ trainings focused on technology utilization, food safety/food science where appropriate, business management skills and operational management.
- Uniforms and promotional materials and activities to expand customer base
- On-going coaching on financial management with the tools
The result will be a cadre of fee for service professionals as early adopters. We will have contributed to growth in the postharvest technology market and the value chains. There will be new investment opportunity to expand the # of businesses and a proven model for success in Malawi.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
With a commercial service business model established where entrepreneurs are able to operate and manage profitable businesses that provide low-cost postharvest processing services using labor saving equipment, Bountifield will have created new opportunity in Malawi for off-farm employment. We will have contributed to the SDGs including, but not limited to: 1) no poverty, 2) zero hunger, 4) quality education, 5) gender equality, 8) decent work and economic growth, 9) industry, innovation and infrastructure, and 12) responsible consumption and production.
We will have invested women and youth employment and access to markets. And, we will have developed a business model that we believe can be replicated and scaled across Malawi and Southern Africa.
We will have made a huge dent in hunger and poverty within the central and northern Malawi.
More specifically, we expect to see a reduction in food loss and 90 percent of women’s time saved from processing groundnuts and soy. Both farmers and entrepreneurs will increase their revenue and will see an improvement in their food quality.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
First, Bountifield recognizes that the postharvest sector requires increased affordable mechanization or other tools that meets their needs. Having tools that are needed in the sector—whether by procurement of existing technology or developing from scratch—is a foundation of Bountifield’s work and the starting place for their vision. Likewise, small medium commercial enterprises in the rural sector need to be leveraged and invested in for the postharvest market to succeed. This means identifying viable enterprises and introducing them to market tools.
Then, with these conditions in place (a market and a product), tools need to focus on improving food quality and reducing food loss, key tenants for achieving better food security and keeping the “problem” in postharvest work at the fore. Improved post-harvest technologies may address a variety of needs, all related to increasing food and agricultural productivity. For example, proper storage, drying, and processing and preservation methods ultimately will increase total yield, product quality, and efficiency. Moreover, adding mechanization to the marketplace will best impact women as they will experience time gains from more efficient processing technologies and will also be able to increase the amount they produce, and value to their products. In turn, while SMEs can be aware of needed tools, they also need a pipeline of domestic value chain from which to purchase tools; a distribution system that is active and viable. Beyond just distribution, other business operations contribute to building the value chain. The tools need to be seen as part of a market-based system; for example, of repair professionals, or tools available for rental.
These conditions will help to add value to postharvest food options. With tools that may enable food options to be processed in new ways (e.g. milling into flour), or packaged for higher quality, tools will enable value-addition during the processing stage. Likewise, as value-addition tools enter into the market, SMEs and smallholders will start to increase their profit from sales of food products or renting equipment out to communities. As profit increases and as business are developed, a greater need for people to use technology for processing will arise [Increase off-farm employment]. For example, businesses that support retail, rental, and repair will create jobs for youth. And, small-scale businesses focused on technology that supports value-addition food products are a perfect opportunity to create new jobs and income for women. As new people enter into these more formalized labor opportunities, using or relying on the postharvest technologies for which Bountifield will support through trainings and toolkits, their skills and capacity to utilize tools and build their businesses will increase. [Increasing postharvest and entrepreneurial capacity].
Lastly, with these changes to the Sub-Saharan African postharvest market, Bountifield will start to see initial changes to improved well-being as households diversify their income sources through these enterprises to gain greater financial stability and move out of poverty. Tools can be used as rental income, increasing yield for sale beyond that used in consumption, or in creating the value-added products that previously were not accessible to enterprises. In turn, as families access greater amounts of higher quality food and income, their food and nutrition security will improve.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?