The Peace Corps Project Design and Management workshop is one that all PCVs will attend about six months after swearing in. My group just had our week-long workshop with our counterparts. My counterpart, Sam, and I looked forward to this workshop for many reasons: it was a vacation with delicious meals, a swimming pool, free meals, other people to hang out with, and did I mention delicious, free meals? Aside from all the food we ate and fun we had swimming, playing darts and just hanging out, we learned a lot about project design and are excited about the project we have planned to do in our community. Sam and I are the perfect team for this project, I think. He is an experienced farmer and is the go-to person if there is a question about anything agriculture-related. And I absolutely love peanut butter and I eat it almost everyday as a sandwich, with chocolate, or by the spoonful. One thing I don’t like about the peanut butter here in Lesotho is that it is expensive. A 1kg tub cost about 50 Rand. When I break down my stipend I make a little less than R80 per day. It almost cost a whole day’s income for a tub of peanut butter that will last a couple of weeks. It’s even more expensive by volume for the smaller jars. My frustration combined with Sam’s strength makes us a great duo to advocate for peanut farming in Lesotho.
In 2008-2013, according to UNICEF, 39% of Lesotho’s population was moderately to severely stunted due to malnutrition. Nearly 25% of the population is infected with HIV (the world’s second-highest rate), and nearly all are affected in some capacity. Although there is very few data on groundnut import to and export from Lesotho, one can see on the shelves at grocery stores that peanut products in Lesotho are unanimously imported from South Africa.
How peanuts can help:
Worldwide, UNICEF and UNAIDS are using peanut products as ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTFs) to alleviate malnutrition in youth and people living with HIV. There is a need for this, and Lesotho has a climate where peanuts could thrive – our small-scale demonstration plot proved this. These facts makes Lesotho a country where peanut farmers should be recruited, locally-made peanut products produced, and steps taken to cease the import of peanut products from outside the borders.
So, that’s what Sam and I will spend my service doing: recruiting local peanut farmers, educating people about the benefits of peanut products, and as a result combating malnutrition, strengthening the local economy, and bringing an idea that is unique to Lesotho.
We hope to execute a “one season plan” that can be easily replicated in the future:
1. Hold a series of community demonstrations showing the various ways of incorporating peanuts into the normal diet using the nuts from our small-scale demonstration plot.
2. Grow and harvest peanuts on a larger scale with local farmers in the next season.
3. Purchase a peanut butter machine.
4. Package and produce peanut butter and other peanut products to then advocate on a larger scale in the future.
One thing I have learned is that I can never be 100% sure of what I want to do in life. Ten years ago I knew I would become a doctor. For a brief while about five years ago I just knew I would become a high school science teacher. Shortly after that, I knew I would be an epidemiologist. And about a year ago I knew I would be working with youth. Now, I have no clue what I’ll do – maybe a fusion of all of these in some way. But this uncertainty is the beauty of life, isn’t it? I freak out every now-and-again, but in the end I’d like to think that I’m only opening more paths for myself – or at the very least becoming more knowledgeable. I haven’t completely marked off any of these options despite my ambivalence, and the horizon is growing and I can travel in any direction and be contented…even if I become a peanut farmer, I guess.