How do you improve child nutrition and livelihoods of rural families?

Sometimes it is hard to tell whether what seems like good news is indeed either good or news. So it is with a recent press release from Compatible Technology International, a non-profit based in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. CTI is sharing a grant of US$673,000 from the McKnight Foundation with ICRISAT (The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics) and Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania. But what is the grant for?

A release from CTI points out that malnutrition is widespread in Malawi and Tanzania, the target countries, and that “the need is urgent to develop and harvest improved, nutritious foods using locally available crops such as groundnuts (commonly called peanuts)”.

Sounds like they may be planning to use “locally available crops” to deliver more diverse diets and thus better nutrition and health, music to my ears.

But how? And what kind of crops? There really isn’t much more in the release. Some guff about reducing post-harvest losses, a non-specific objective to “improve the nutrition of rural households, particularly children”, selling “groundnut-based food products” in local markets to raise incomes, and other good stuff, but, as the children of Malawi and Tanzania might say, no real meat.

CTI’s expertise seems to be “designing food and water technologies that are sustainable and appropriate to local cultures” and that too is surely a good thing, especially as one of the other objectives of the project is to “reduce the intense daily labor typically endured by women”. Maybe they’re just flogging peanut-butter machines., though I doubt it.

I realize I’m being overly negative here. But the headline on the release is Compatible Technology International Project to Enhance Child Nutrition and Livelihoods of Rural Families in Malawi and Tanzania. Ignore the first four words; most other readers will. I think I’m still entitled to ask just how they plan to do that, even of a simple press release. Please CTI, ICRISAT, Sokoine — anyone — enlighten us.

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