Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Solution for Calcium Deficiency - Egg Shells - It's Catching On

As I explained in an earlier post, Calcium deficiency in Kenya. What About Egg Shells?, calcium deficiency is a major problem in rural Africa. We proposed the idea of using egg shells as a dietary supplement. Introducing new ideas is challenging, even when they make good sense. Most of the people that I work with have been slow to adopt the idea. At the SAFI school in rural Malawi it is catching on thanks to a good staff and BYU students.
Ester the SAFI nutritionist shows me maize flour with egg shells ground into it.
The SAFI school has two flour mills for grinding maize (corn) flour. Ester and the BYU students took some of the egg shells from their breakfast and ground them right into the maize flour. The egg shells have no flavor, so they go undetected as long as they are ground fine enough that there is no gritty texture. I tested the flour myself and found no difference in taste or texture, when compared with regular maize flour.
Alisha, one of the BYU students that helped with the eggshell project.

One egg shell can provide enough daily calcium for three people. This use of egg shells could be a huge game changer in the lives of the rural African population. The question is, will we be able to change the custom of these rural villagers and convince them to eat egg shells as part of their daily diet.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Children's Brighter Future Initiative in Malawi AMAZING!

I am amazed at what is happening with Children's Brighter Future Initiative (CBFI) in Malawi. Even though I have seen it unfolding, I still have a hard time comprehending the incredible results that they are achieving. This post will hit a few of the highlights of the program and may be one of several posts detailing this program.

A little over a year ago, the CBFI staff met with a small group of Agriculture Extension Development Officers (AEDOs) to explain their program and teach them the basic principles that they would teach the farmers in the rural villages. This group met at the School of Agriculture for Family Independence (SAFI) near Madisi, Malawi. For a week the SAFI staff and the CBFI staff trained the AEDOs on basic nutrition and sequential gardens. The training went very well and the AEDOs left with enthusiasm for this new program for teaching and inspiring the farm families in their districts.
Alan Silva doing additional training with CBFI and SAFI staff
The plan was very simple, each AEDO would select four lead farmers in their district to train. These lead farmers would then select ten follower farmers that they would teach and mentor. The incentive to this program was that CBFI would provide vegetable seeds to these farmers. The key to the program was that the seeds would only be provided after the farmer families had constructed raised beds with a mixture of mulch, manure, and soil. In addition, these families were expected to pay back with seeds or produce from their harvest and to teach their neighbors what they were learning. In other words, work first and the reward will come later. Most of the farm families approached were excited about the program, but a few of them declined to join the program, citing that other NGOs (non government organizations or charitable organizations) gave to them without requiring work on their part. Requiring work first was a core principle of this program.

A few months after the training took place, I had the extreme pleasure of visiting several of these families. I was amazed at their gardens. The farmers were so excited to show off what THEY had accomplished. Their families were now eating vegetables on a regular basis, they had surplus to sell, school fees were able to be paid for their children and they were anxious to learn module two.
This family enjoys a bouteous harvest from thier garden

What affect does this have on these farm families? Before the program their families consumed very few vegetables. They didn't understand the importance of eating them and they didn't have money to buy them. The AEDOs estimated that the few vegetables that they did buy would cost the families at least 100 kwacha /per week. A daily laborer can earn about 300 kwacha/day when work is available. Malnutrition and sickness were ubiquitous in these families.
Husbands and wives are taught the basic CBFI program

The AEDOs reported that the value of vegetables consumed and sold by these families is 200 kwacha/day. This changes the families financial position on vegetables from paying 100 kwacha/week to receiving 200 kwacha/day. This is a difference of 1500 kwacha/week or 78,000 kwacha/year! The health of their children has improved dramatically having a ripple effect on the community, local clinics, and government medical programs. The community has benefited by having more vegetables available for purchase and consumption. Neighbors are learning how to raise vegetables and receive seeds from the target families. The far reaching effects of this program are impossible to measure, but are extremely significant.

Maybe the most important harvest of this program has been the boost in self confidence that these families have developed. They now see themselves as agents to lift themselves out of poverty. They have also developed a trust in the AEDOs and CBFI that has allowed further miracles to happen with modules two and three. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tsuma Continues to Amaze Me

You may remember Tsuma, my friend from Gona that gave me a chicken in appreciation of me working with him. He has been extra busy the last couple of months and is the best entrepreneur in the area.
Tsuma with three of his now 32 beehives
The honey business has done so well that he has increased his number of hives to 32. Some of them are the yellow boxes that you see and some of them are hollow logs with caps put in the end. He lost one of his hives to a colony of ants that built a cancerous looking nest on the bottom. I guess in the world of insects, ants win over bees.
Ants came in and built their nest on the bottom of this beehive.
Tsuma has led his group to amazing success. They have been very busy in their vegetable gardens and fields and have a great crop of kale, tomatoes, spinach, okra, and several other vegetables. Their corn is looking much better than any around the area.
Eddison, Rabecca and I are helping Tsuma harvet his kale
They have also learned from Rabecca that they can dry their kale and store it for later. They have plenty of vegetables for their own families. They have been able to sell large quantities and use the money for improving their community garden, paying school fees for their children, and setting up a group bank account. They also discovered that if they dry their kale and save it for a couple of months when the dry season comes, they can sell it for twice the price.

Tsuma's next big project is to learn how to do drip irrigation so that they can be even more efficient with their water. They have also started growing fruit trees to add to their food supply.

With the teaching, coaching and encouragement of Feed The World and Tsuma's leadership, this village is hurling itself out of poverty and dependence. They are setting a great example for their neighboring villages and making a new life for their children.

Congratulations to Tsuma and the Gona Village Group!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Julius, A life changed by Feed The World

Julius heard about the Feed The World program and wanted to be part of it. He organized over twenty of his neighboring families into a group that we could teach. He was ready for us and has done an incredible job.
Julius had realized the importance of water and dug a large pit about 12 feet deep and 14 feet in diameter to capture water for his farm. Several years after this, another NGO, AgraKan, was impressed with his ambition and helped him dig a much larger surface dam. This preparation made it much easier for him to take advantage of our program.
Julius, Eddison, and two of the group members at the surface dam
As the Feed The World staff taught him our basic principles he implemented them with vigor. He has been in the program less than a year and has already enjoyed great success. When we visited his farm we found Okra plants over six feet tall, tomatoes, eggplant, kale, spinach, and many others. An average day laborer in Kenya can earn about 350 Kenyan Shillings ($4.00) per day. Julius is now harvesting and selling about 1,000 Kenyan Shillings ($11.75) worth of tomatoes per day. This is after his family has eaten all that they want to eat.
Julius is proudly showing off his tomatoes
Last month volunteers from Thriving Nations, the charitable arm of Thrive Life, helped Julius plant maize (corn) according to our specifications. Based on what we are seeing right now after only a month he should have three or four times as much maize as he has had before. He was very excited that the Thrive team had come and helped him till the land and plant the maize.
The maize is growing well. Julius's home is in the background
The proceeds from his garden will make it so that he can easily pay the school fees for his children and medical bills that come up. Those two expenses are the ones that I most often hear talked about. Parents hate to have their children kicked out of school because they can't pay the required fees. No parent wants to be in the situation that they have a sick child and don't have the money to pay for the medicine to treat them. With malaria and several other of the illnesses in rural Kenya, the medicine could mean the difference between life and death.
The smile on Julius's face is in part a smile of stress relief because now he has a way of getting the money that he needs for these critical issues. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Church in Africa

How do I worship when I am in Africa? The answer is in some ways the same as I do at home and in some ways it is very different.

Last week I landed in Bamako, Mali late Friday night. Since Mali is almost entirely Muslim and their holy day is Friday, I missed the national day of worship. Sunday is just like any other day in Mali, so I had kind of a half work day and half, worship on my own day. I studied the scriptures and prayed.

A wonderful young family arriving at church in the Changamwe Branch
Today I attended the Changamwe branch in Mombasa, Kenya. Since I have been there before, I was welcomed with open arms and bright smiles. We had a wonderful worship service where many including myself shared our beliefs in, and testimonies of, Jesus Christ.

The congergation was much smaller than the one that I meet with in Genola but they were full of faith and anxious to share their happiness with others. The children sang with gusto from the primary room.

In a couple of weeks I will be in Lilongwe, Malawi and I will have a similar experience. The meetings are held in English but there is a good portion of the native language mixed in and in Malawi a translator is usually used so that all can participate and understand each other. The Lord's spirit is there no matter where you are encouraging you to do better.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Crops that I saw in Mali: Maize/Corn, Rice, Vegetables, Sorghum, Millet, Soybean

On my first day in Mali with Anounou we went to visit a successful farmer near Selingue in southern Mali. He took us to see his corn fields. I was impressed with what I saw. Most of the rural farmers in Africa, that I have seen, plant a hill of five plants about a meter apart from each other. I am not sure where this technique originated and I have not been able to find out why they do it this way. The best answer that I have been able to get is, the five seeds are in case some of them don't germinate and the spacing is so that it is easier to get between the plants to weed when they get bigger . This farmer planted his corn in rows with the proper spacing between rows and between plants, 60-80 cm between rows and 15 to 20 cm between plants in a row.

Looking at recently planted corn fields in Mali

Rice fields ready to harvest near Selingue, Mali
The farmer then took us to his rice farm near the Niger river. He was in the middle of harvesting the rice. These fields are flood irrigated from the river so they can grow rice all year around. Typically, they plant in July and harvest in December then plant again in January and harvest in June.

With added water almost any vegetable is grown in these gardens in Ouelessabougou
In this community garden I saw a very wide variety of vegetables and herbs. Tomatoes, spinach, onion, kale, sweet potato, corn, beans, soybeans, and many others. The climate is very good for growing just about anything here. The challenge comes during the dry season when everything has to be watered by hand. This community garden has five hand dug wells.

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics
In Bamako we stopped at ICRISAT, The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics and met with Eva a sorghum scientist from Germany that works here to develop better varieties of sorghum and millet. 
Mali has a climate that is conducive to growing a wide variety of produce, from cereal grains to soybeans to vegetables to fruits. With improved cultivation and processing techniques, Mali could produce plenty of food to meet the needs of her population and could export also. I look forward to using the Feed the World program to help the Ouelessabougou Alliance teach improved farming practices.

Rice production on small rural farms in Mali near the Niger River

Rice is a very important crop for the farmers in Mali and is one of the principal foods of the Mali people. In this post I will describe using text and pictures the fascinating process of rice production by the rural farmers in southern Mali.
Rice fields flooded by the Niger River irrigation canals
Because these fields are flood irrigated from the river, they can grow rice all year around. Typically, they plant in July and harvest in December then plant again in January and harvest in June. The farmers purchased the immature rice plants from the nurseries and plant them by hand in their fields.

Rice fields ready to harvest near Selingue, Mali
The rice takes four to five months to mature depending on the variety. During this time the fields are flooded several times depending on the weather and the needs of the rice. The Mali farmers pay the government water office for the water that they use.

The rice is harvested by workers with a hand scythe and gathered in bundles
This rice field has recently been harvested. The rice plant is cut and laid on top of the remaining stalk for several days to dry out. It is then gathered in bundles and carried to the road ready to be threshed.
A portable rice thresher that goes from field to field doing custom threshing
Portable threshing machines are hauled around the valley from field to field to thresh the rice. The rice straw is either burned there in the fields or taken back to the villages to be used as animal feed during the dry season. The rice is spread out on the ground and allowed to dry before being milled, cleaned, and sold in the market.

Rice drying on plastic tarps near the farmers home
This farmer spread his rice on large tarps near his home. The roads make a nice flat place to lay the tarps to dry the rice. Occasionally I have seen the grains spread out on the paved roads even without a tarp. Sometimes the traffic will attempt to avoid the grain, but sometimes they will just drive right over the top of it.

Using the breeze to clean the chaff from the rice before taking it to market
Once the milling has taken place the rice is cleaned by pouring it out onto a large tarp while a breeze is blowing. The lighter rice chaff will be carried to the side, leaving just the rice itself. It is not uncommon to see chickens, goats, or other farm animals helping themselves to the chaff. The rice is scooped into 90 kg bags and hauled to the market using donkey carts or various other forms of transportation. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mali is added to my list of countries

The Ouelessebougou Alliance asked Feed the World to evaluate the opportunities that they have for introducing gardening and crop production into the villages where they work in Mali. I was asked to meet with Anounou, their in country director and have him show me what they had in mind. I spent four days in Mali looking at the country's agriculture and talking with the staff and the villagers. Mali is a delightful country. I will probably have several posts about Mali agriculture.

Weekly market in Selingue in southern Mali
One of the days we went to the local open air market. It was much like the other open air markets that I have been to in Africa. We bought some deep fried soy bean scones, chofufu, that were quite good. I was looking for the way that the local people traded their agricultural products.

We enjoyed some chofufu at the market.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

In Gratitude for Your Service Here is a Chicken - Pay it Forward

This may sound crazy, but today I was offered a special gift of gratitude from Tsuma, one of the villagers that I was working with... a chicken. To paraphrase a common high school phrase "This is a third world gift" I felt honored that he would value my services so highly. 
Tsuma on the right and some of his group members at the community garden.
These villagers are very poor and have almost nothing. Their homes are made of sticks and mud with dried grass for the roof. They cook over open fires and have no bathroom facilities. They are a generous people. To give one of their chickens is a fortune. It provides the only source of animal protein that the family gets. I felt very honored that they appreciated my teaching so much.

Not wanting to offend him or try and take a chicken on the plane with me, I had the idea come to me to have him pay it forward. I asked him to choose another person in the village, give them the chicken in my name, and then train them on proper care of the chicken. I told him that when I returned, he could introduce me to the person and I could see how the chicken and his teaching had changed their life.
... Another one for the list of things that I would never have imagined myself doing. 
Here is a picture of this great man showing off his bee hive to me
Tsuma is a great example of someone that has started with very little, but is learning, taking chances, and improving his life and the lives of those in his village. This month he will be featured in a Farm Field Day in his village. Feed the World, the local government extension program and other Non Government Organizations (NGOs) are sponsoring the Farm Filed Day to teach villagers in the neighboring area how to improve their lives by producing their own food. It may seem simple and basic to us, but it is the difference between life and death to them. 
If you would like to help Tsuma and others like him, go to and look for ways that you can help.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Food Security- Having a secure food supply for 6 to12 months

The beautiful highlands of Ecuador are home to many rural farm families. In many cases their diets are nutrient deficient. They live in very beautiful areas, but do not have the understanding of what foods will give them the nutrients that they need.
The home and beautiful hillsides surrounding of one of our students in Ecuador.
One of the keys to our program at Feed the World is food security. We teach our student families the importance of having a balanced diet, especially for their small children. We teach them to grow gardens with a variety of vegetables that will give them complete nutrition. We also teach them how to improve their harvests and then store the excess.
Board member Rick Brimhall and the Ecuador staff with a recent graduate in front of her supply of food
In addition to teaching them about vegetable and crop production, we also teach them how to better care for their animals. Guinea pigs or cuyes are a very common meat animal in these areas. They reproduce quickly and are very easy to raise. They not only provide a very good source of high quality protein, but the surplus guinea pigs can be sold for additional family income.

Guinea pigs or cuyes raised by the small farmers to feed their families and to sell
In most cases, our student family's level of nutrition can be raised to levels of the first world countries in less than a year. The amazing part is that by teaching them how to do it themselves, it becomes a habit that they will have for the rest of their lives. We encourage them to teach their neighbors and friends in a pay it forward fashion.
During the learning process, we see hope and confidence come into their  lives. It is not uncommon for our graduates to go forward trying new techniques, crops, markets, etc. We encourage them to try new things and learn from their experiences.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Piura, Peru is a city rich in history but is now desperate for water

Hot and very dry describes Piura, Peru today. The seasonal rains have been sparse and late leaving a barren landscape. Our goal is to teach local farmers to be flexible based on the resources that they have. Rice is a major crop here, but with so little water they need to adapt to something that uses less water.

The interns from Cameroon join me at the town center for a picture.
In addition to working with the farmers here in Piura, we will be training our new friends from Cameroon. Even though their country is in West Africa, the climate and growing conditions are very similar so this provides them a good place to learn new ways of teaching the rural farmers how to improve their lives. They will be here is Peru for six weeks, then return to Cameroon to teach their colleagues what they have learned.

Carlos, Charles, and Raymond on our tour of Piura

Carlos was our tour guide today and will be one of the main teachers for Charles and Raymond over the next six weeks. They will be learning about nutrition, vegetables, crops, and small animal production. We are happy to have them here.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Does a teenage girl know more than parents in the rural developing world about good nutrition?

Recently we had a mother comment on the wording of our website that indicated that her daughter would be teaching parents how to feed their children properly. This was my response to her.

"Thank you for your interest in our program. Your daughter is in for a life enhancing adventure and a lot of fun. 

Thank you for your comments about the wording on our website. We appreciate feedback on what we have posted so that we can clearly communicate what we do. While what is stated is technically correct, it can give the impression that we are being paternalistic. The focus of our program is to empower these poor rural farmers to have good nutrition and food security for their families.

In a very real sense your daughter does know more about good nutrition than these parents do. There is no question as to how much these parents love their children and that they do all that they can to provide for them. Our hope is that your daughter will start to realize just what a wonderful life she has and understand how much she has been taught by her parents, teachers, and leaders. At the same time we will help teach her how to share her knowledge and the additional training we give her with our program families in a way that is empowering and not condescending.
Maize (corn) is the main crop of many developing countries and the main source of food.

Most of these farmers only grow and consume corn. They have not been taught about the nutritional needs of the body and what foods have these essential nutrients. Many of them do not have access to seeds other than corn. They are not knowingly depriving their children of good nutrition. They are just following the traditions of their fathers. Because they live in very rural areas they have not had access to nutritional education either through schools or through other media. 

They will supplement their diets with wild vegetables or fruits and even occasionally travel to markets to purchase other food: beans, other grains, vegetables, and fruits. Our nutritional analysis shows that in Peru 80% of the children that we studied were underweight due to poor diets. 

Our program teaches them the importance of proper nutrition, provides seeds for them, and helps them to plant their own gardens. We teach them which vegetables and grains provide the nutrients that they need and how to eat them. We teach them how to prepare the food they grow to provide good nutrition for their families. It is very basic and very simple, but life changing for these wonderful people.

We encourage them to then pay it forward to their friends and neighbors. Our focus is on self reliance so we want them to not only learn what we teach, but feel empowered to learn and do more. We are thrilled to see our graduates try new crops, techniques, or markets. It shows that they have learned to stretch out of their comfort zone. We hope that they succeed, but we help them see that if they feel they can learn from it and do better the next time.

I would be glad to answer any other questions that you may have.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Calcium deficiency in Kenya. What About Egg Shells?

Dr. Paul Johnston with the BYU Nutrition, Dietetics & Food Science, analyzed the diets of the children in a rural Kenyan school. He found them very calcium deficient. He also observed pregnant women in the area chewing on rocks. He took some of these rocks back and found that they had a small amount of calcium in them. This confirmed his suspicion that the women also had calcium deficient diets and chewed on rocks to get calcium into their diet.

There are not many good sources of calcium in these rural villages. We have taught them to grow vegetables to improve their diets, but they still lack calcium. At the schools we have brought in milking goats to supply calcium rich milk to be mixed with their porridge but having a goat is more than most people can afford.
Emily and Ega cooked a chapati (flour totilla) for me with ground egg shell.

We evaluated all of their resources and found that a calcium source readily available in their area is egg shells. After discussing the issue with Dr. Johnston and doing some additional research, we concluded that the egg shells could be used as a calcium supplement for their diets.

I decided to do a little experiment and include egg shells into my diet. I asked Emily, our cook, to clean and grind to powder an egg,shell and then add it to chapati, a local tortilla type food. She thought that I was crazy, but agreed to try it after I explained why I was doing it.

We found no difference in the flavor of the chapati but we did notice a little grainy texture. I concluded that eggshells could work very well as a calcium supplement mixed with the local food.

We went to the village of Mkanyeni and explained the need for calcium in their diets and especially in the diets of their growing children. I told them that they were throwing away a very good source of calcium. This got their attention. They were skeptical when I first introduced the idea of using the egg shells. I suggested that they do a community experiment and half of the village eat them for six months while the other half did not.

As added encouragement I told them that if it was going to be a valid trial, then the ones that did not eat the egg shells would have to wait to the end of the six month period even if they see the other group's children growing stronger than their own. I don't really care about the validity of the experiment, I just want them to improve their lives and thought that implanting the image of having stronger children in their minds would give them the motivation to actually do it.

I am anxious to see if this simple solution will catch on and solve the issue of calcium deficiency in these rural areas. Simple solutions are of no value unless they are implemented.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

I Do This Because I LOVE IT!

As some of you read my last post, this thought may have gone through your mind. Why would anyone want to do what Lonny is doing? He must be crazy. I should point out that I wrote that post within a week of arriving back in the U.S. when my mind and body were suffering from the effects of jet lag. Maybe you are right I am crazy but before you pass judgement let me tell you the rest of the story.
Imanuel Banda and his family are some of the wonderful people that I meet!

The People
In this line of work I have the opportunity to meet some of the most incredible people around. I meet the subsistence farmers that have practically nothing but are willing to share what they have with you. I hear their stories of struggle through life. I get to see the miraculous transformation that takes place as we work with them. I am the recipient of their love and gratitude as their lives change forever for the better.

I am able to work with inspiring people like Mike Bumstead, who started in a garage with a small business and grew it to a multi-million dollar company. He uses his wealth and influence to go to the developing world and to reach out and help lift those less fortunate. He founded The Institute for Self Reliant Agriculture (SRA) ( which teaches small land holders how to lift themselves and their neighbors out of poverty using their own resources. It is an incredible model that is sustainable, scalable, and simple.

The Results
The first sign of success that we see is the hope and enthusiasm that fills the  eyes of these humble people. They begin to see a path out of the generations of poverty that has encircled them like a dark prison of fate. As the variety of their crops begin to grow the excitement builds. They are now able to feed their family foods that they could only occasionally afford to buy. The family's nutrition level dramatically increases and the sicknesses dramatically decrease. The constant fear of losing a child to disease is replaced by hopes and dreams for that child. The children run and play more and learn so much faster in school. Excess produce is shared with the neighbors as well as sold. The extra income is used to pay school fees, buy pencils, books, even a new shirt for school.

The frequent classes taught by the SRA nutritionist, agronomist, and animal scientist, helps the family to understand simple principles to a better life. Improved family hygiene helps the family to avoid getting and spreading most of the common diseases in the area. Cooking classes teach them to use the new vegetables that they are growing. The plant and animal care classes teach them how to successfully grow and raise healthy crops.
The family is taught about preparedness and within a year has stored away enough food for their family for six to 12 months and enough seeds to plant the next year. The fear of famine and starvation dissipates and is replaced by feelings of self-confidence and self-worth. These basic principles are shared with others as they lift themselves out of the poverty cycle.

The Dream
Our goal is to transform the people in these rural areas into thriving energetic citizens whose lives are filled with the hope of better days for their families, friends, and neighbors. We hope to instill in them the confidence to learn and apply the basic principles of success in their lives. We want them to see that they can use their minds to evaluate their resources and develop them, improving their own lives and the lives of those around them.

The Vision
Much like a farmer that plants a small seed with the belief that it will grow, mature, and yield many seeds, we hope that as we teach one family the information will spread and the results will be thousands of families benefiting from teaching. Communities and nations will be changed and suffering will decrease all over the world. We want this model to spread throughout the world and need the help of many others to do it. Join us by going to the website ( and looking for ways that you can help or contact me directly (lonnyw@feedthe

I LOVE WHAT I DO because I get to work with some of the best people on the earth in a great cause! The work that we do is so rewarding as lives change for the better. It is very difficult at times but well worth the effort. During the difficult times I really appreciate the encouragement that I receive from my family and friends. It gives me strength to continue serving my less fortunate brothers and sisters.

Search This Blog: