Ice was once a natural resource of some value, harvested, processed and sold on international markets. The ice harvest has vanished, but not before evolving into our modern food chain.
In 1805, the 21-year-old Frederic Tudor was at a party in Boston, when his brother William playfully suggested that ice from nearby ponds could be cut and sold to wealthy customers in the Caribbean. Frederic, later to be known as the âIce Kingâ, seized on the idea, and the following year took a ship loaded with ice to sunny Martinique, where he taught the owners of the finer hotels how to make and sell ice cream.
The ice cream sold for a hefty price, but the ice itself soon melted, leaving Frederic with a staggering loss of $4000. Not one to be easily discouraged, he learned from his expensive lesson by experimenting with different ways to make the ice last longer. He compared types of insulation, including straw, wood shavings, and blankets, and designs for storage facilities until he had perfected an ice depot that could keep 92% of its inventory frozen for a summer season. Once he had succeeded, Fredericâs business and reputation soared.
For years, ice harvesters improvised techniques with pickaxes and chisels, aided by horses wearing spiked shoes, to avoid slipping on the frozen lakes. This was usually good enough to gather enough ice to be stored for sale in the summer in northern cities. Then in 1824, another Massachusetts man, Nathaniel Jarvis, invented a horse-drawn ice cutter, with parallel blades that would cut ice from frozen ponds into blocks of standard sizes, such as 22 by 22 inches (56 centimeters). This innovation allowed blocks of ice that could be loaded tightly onto a ship, without spaces in between. The ice was less likely to melt or shift in transit, and the ice trade took on a new life.
Ice began to be shipped to Charleston, New Orleans and other southern cities (especially to chill beer and preserve fish during the long, hot summers), but in one bold experiment in 1833, Tudor shipped 180 tons of ice to Calcutta, where he built a large ice depot to house his product. Residents of India could now buy an insulated box, and stock it with a block of Yankee ice that would keep food and drinks cold for days.
By 1856 over 130,000 tons of ice were being cut from ponds around Boston and shipped not just to India, but also to Latin America, the Caribbean, China and the Philippines.Â But that same year, spurred by the profits to be made from ice, a British journalist, James Harrison, invented a practical, coal-powered ice compressor in Australia. âNatural iceâ (cut in the wild) and âplant iceâ (from factories) competed with each other in an expanding market. In the 1800s, some railroad cars and ships were fitted with ice-holding compartments that allowed fresh meat and other perishable produce to be shipped long distances.
At first, consumers preferred natural ice, believing it was cleaner and longer lasting, and it wasnât until 1914 that plant ice in the USA gained dominance. Relatively inexpensive electrical refrigerators came onto the market in 1923. Once consumers had refrigerators, they no longer had to buy ice.
After a century of lively commerce, the spectacular long-distance and large-scale trade of natural ice finally began to decline and eventually collapsed in the 1930s. However, the ice trade has left the modern economy with a legacy: the commerce in fresh food which continues to this day, although it is now based on refrigeration, not natural ice. And of course there is still a niche market for factory-made ice, sold for picnics, and (especially in developing countries) to fishmongers and other small-scale food dealers.
The ice trade also led to another innovation, the ice box, which allowed homeowners to keep food fresh, stimulating the trade in produce from countryside to town. Modern supermarkets with ice cream, frozen fish and fresh meat presuppose that the consumers have a refrigerator at home. Today, tropical countries like Ghana export mangos and papayas to Europe and North America. Because of refrigeration in Central America, more farmers are able to sell fresh produce to large, new supermarkets in cities like Tegucigalpa and San Salvador.
You can now find tropical produce in refrigerators around the world, and in a sense it started when a student at Harvard joked with his brother about shipping frozen pond water to the Caribbean.
Boorstin, Daniel J. 1965 The Americans: The National Experience. New York: Vintage Books. 517 pp.
Cummings, Richard O. 1949 The American Ice Harvests: A Historical Study in Technology, 1800â1918. Berkeley and Los Angeles: California University Press.
Vea la versiÃ³n en espaÃ±ol a continuaciÃ³n
Mycotoxins are poisons produced by common mold fungi. The best known examples are aflatoxins, produced by Aspergillus, which are of increasing concern worldwide because they contaminate Â many types of stored foods, including groundnuts (peanuts), manioc, maize (corn) and chilli. Aflatoxins affect the health of people and animals and are powerful carcinogens if Â enough is consumed. Like many successful poisons, aflatoxins are invisible and tasteless, so they are tricky to manage.
The other week, I was in Chuquisaca, Bolivia, with Paul and Marcella from Agro-Insight, making a video for farmers on how to manage molds and reduce contamination of food. Part of the solution is surprisingly low-tech.
The first step is to recognize the molds. They look like a dark green powder, growing between the pink skin of the peanuts and the white layer of the shell around them. Farmer Dora Campos explains that the people in her village, Achiras, used to dismiss the molds, saying simply that the pods were rotten. Farmers would salvage the bad nuts by feeding them to pigs or chickens, and some people would even eat the rotten nuts. Thanks to what theyâve learned in recent years, the villagers now bury the spoiled peanuts.
Aspergillus survives on organic matter in the soil, within easy reach of peanut pods, for example. Antonio Medina showed us how he dried his peanut pods off the ground, as soon as they are harvested, to stop the mold contaminating them. This keeps the nuts as clean and dry as possible.
Like most fungi, Aspergillus needs water to thrive. Don Antonio shows us how the farmers pick through the whole pile of harvested peanuts, after drying, when the pods are cleaner and the bad ones are easier to spot. The farmers go through the harvest one pod at a time, discarding all of the spoiled or discolored pods. It takes time, but it is a technique that smallholders can use to produce a high-quality product, based on thoughtfulness and hard work.
Agronomist Edwin Mariscal is trying a simple solar dryer with many of the farmers he works with. Mr. Mariscal introduces us to Santiago GutiÃ©rrez, who has built one of the dryers: a wooden frame raised off the ground and covered with a sheet of tough, sun-resistant plastic. Mr. Mariscal has been working with similar dryers in the field, with farmers for years. The dryers started as a metal version for drying peaches, but experience showed that the dryers worked just as well if they were made from wooden poles cut on the farm.
Don Santiago, and his wife Emiliana, explain that the dryer works beautifully. Peanuts dry even in the rain. The family can also put maize and chilli into the structure, to dry those foods free of aflatoxin.
You can keep deadly aflatoxins out of food by following a few simple principles, including harvesting on time (not too late, or the Aspergillus has more time to get into the pods). Keep the produce off the ground. Dry it out of the rain and remove the moldy pieces. Store produce in a cool, dry place, off the floor.
Thanks to FundaciÃ³n Valles for information for this article, and for supporting our filming in the field. The video production was funded by the McKnight Foundation.
To watch the video
Watch and download the farmer training video: Managing aflatoxins in groundnuts during drying and storage
Sign up for the D-group at Access Agriculture to get an alert whenever new videos are posted on www.accessagriculture.org.
EVITAR UN ASESINO SILENCIOSO
Por Jeff Bentley, 12 de febrero del 2017
Las micotoxinas sonÂ venenos producidos por mohos de hongos comunes. Los ejemplos mÃ¡s conocidos son aflatoxinas, producidas por Aspergillus, que son de interÃ©s actual porque contaminan muchas clases de alimentos almacenados, incluso manÃs (cacahuates), yuca, maÃz y chile (ajÃ). Las aflatoxinas afectan la salud de la gente y de los animales y son Â cancerÃgenos poderosos si se consume lo suficiente. Como muchos venenos exitosos, las aflatoxinas son invisibles y sin sabor, entonces son difÃciles de manejar.
La otra semana, estuve en Chuquisaca, Bolivia, con Paul y Marcella de Agro-Insight, haciendo un video para agricultores sobre cÃ³mo manejar mohos y reducir la contaminaciÃ³n de los alimentos. Felizmente, parte de la soluciÃ³n es el uso de tecnologÃa apropiada.
El primer paso es reconocer a los mohos. Parecen un polvo verdusco oscuro, que crece entre la piel roja del manÃ y la capa blanca de la cÃ¡scara. La agricultora Dora Campos explica que antes, la gente de su comunidad, Achiras, no daba importancia a los mohos, diciendo simplemente que Â las vainas estaban podridas. Los agricultores rescataban los manÃs malos, dÃ¡ndoles de comer a sus chanchos o gallinas, y algunas personas hasta comÃan los granos podridos. Gracias a lo que han aprendido en los Ãºltimos aÃ±os, ahora los comuneros saben enterrar los granos podridos.
Aspergillus sobrevive en la materia orgÃ¡nica del suelo, al alcance de las vainas de manÃ, por ejemplo. Antonio Medina nos mostrÃ³ cÃ³mo Ã©l secaba sus vainas en un toldo al cosecharlas, para evitar que el moho las contamine. Eso ayuda a mantener a los manÃs limpios y secos. Como la mayorÃa de los hongos, el Aspergillus necesita agua para vivir.
Don Antonio nos muestra cÃ³mo los agricultores escogen todos los manÃs cosechados, despuÃ©s de secarlos, cuando las vainas son mÃ¡s limpias y es mÃ¡s fÃ¡cil ver las malas. Los agricultores revisan toda su cosecha, una vaina a la vez, descartando las vainas malas o descoloridas. Toma tiempo, pero es una tÃ©cnica que los campesinos pueden usar para producir un producto de alta calidad, trabajando en forma consciente.
El Ing. Edwin Mariscal estÃ¡ probando un simple secador solar con varias familias. El Ing. Mariscal nos presenta a Santiago GutiÃ©rrez, que ha construido uno de los secadores: una tarima de palos como una mesa, cubierto de una hoja de plÃ¡stico fuerte y resistente al sol. El Ing. Mariscal ha trabajado con secadores parecidos en el campo, con agricultores, durante varios aÃ±os. Los secadores empezaron como una versiÃ³n metÃ¡lica para secar duraznos, pero la experiencia mostrÃ³ que los secadores funcionaban igual si se hacÃan de palos cortados en la zona.
Don Santiago, y su esposa Emiliana, explican que el secador funciona bien bonito. Los manÃs secan hasta en la lluvia. La familia tambiÃ©n lo usa para secar maÃz y ajÃ, para evitar aflatoxina en ellos.
Se puede mantener los alimentos libres de las aflatoxinas letales siguiendo unos principios sencillos, como cosechar a tiempo (no muy tarde, o el Aspergillus tendrÃ¡ mÃ¡s tiempo para entrar a las vainas). No secar el producto en el suelo. Evitar que entre la lluvia al producto y saque las piezas podridas. Almacene en un lugar seco y fresco, no en el piso.
La FundaciÃ³n Valles nos proporcionÃ³ informaciÃ³n para este artÃculo, y apoyÃ³ nuestra filmaciÃ³n en el campo. Este video ha sido financiado por Programa Colaborativo de InvestigaciÃ³n de Cultivos (CCRP) de la McKnight Foundation.
Para ver la video
Puede inscribirse para el D-group en Access Agriculture para recibir una alerta cuando este video se suba al www.accessagriculture.org.
A plant has a personality and, like people and countries, some have stronger characters than others. Take the lupin bean (Lupinus mutabilis), for example. It is an oddly erect legume that forms a sort of cone shape, and its glorious flowers make the plant wildly popular with gardeners in many countries. In Bolivia it is called âtarwiâ, from Quechua, the language of the Incas.
While making a video in Bolivia, my colleagues and I asked doÃ±a Eleuteria in the village of Phinkina to tell us what she planted after harvesting tarwi. She surprised me by saying that sometimes she followed tarwi with potatoes. Thatâs astounding, because potatoes are such a demanding crop that Andean farmers often rest the soil for years before planting a field to potatoes. Otherwise the soil may be improved by adding tons of chicken manure. Bolivian farmers in the Andes donât buy manure for other crops, just the fussy and valuable potato.
I followed up by asking Reynaldo Herbas, from the village of Tijraska, if he had ever planted potatoes right after tarwi. âYes, and it does very well. Planting tarwi is like fallowing your soil, or like using chicken manure,â he explained.
Tarwi seeds are also rich in oils and proteins and doÃ±a Eleuteria regularly feeds lupin beans to her children. Like some other Bolivians doÃ±a Eleuteria make a nutritious snack by boiling the seeds, but itâs a lot of work. The grains need to be soaked in water for three days before boiling, then left in the running water of the river for several days to wash out the bitter alkaloids.
Agronomist Juan Vallejos from Proinpa (a research institute) confirmed that tarwi takes a lot of water to process. This is ironic, because tarwi is recommended for dry areas with impoverished soils. Sweet varieties without the bitter alkaloids do exist, but in Bolivia the search for these sweet lupins is only just starting.
While visiting doÃ±a Eleuteria to learn about processing seed, she showed us how to pick out the bad grains of tarwi, to ensure that the crop planted from them would be healthy. (The main disease is anthracnose, caused by the fungus Colletotrichum gloeosporioides). We asked doÃ±a Eleuteria what she did with the diseased grains. We thought that she might say that she buried them to keep the disease from spreading. But no, she buries the discarded grains because raw lupin beans are toxic, whether they are healthy or diseased.
âI do bury them,â she explained, âbecause they are so bitter that if the chickens eat them they will die.â
Agronomist Vallejos explained that tarwi plants are so packed with alkaloids that sheep and cattle will not touch a crop growing in the field. However, the lupin plant is drought resistant and even withstands hail, which often mows down other food crops in the Andes. Local governments in Bolivia are starting to promote tarwi as a way of adapting to climate change.
A plant may have a complex personality, with sterling qualities as well as some tragic defects. Tarwi or lupin is in many ways a perfect crop: well-suited to the punishing climate of the High Andes while nutritious for people and good for the soil. The downside is that you need lots of water to process the beans and to leach out the poisons that can kill your unsuspecting chickens.
For this story in Cochabamba, Bolivia, I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by Paul Van Mele and Marcella Vrolijks of Agro-Insight and Juan Vallejos and Maura Lazarte and others from Proinpa. The visit was funded by the McKnight Foundation.
Calisaya, J.J., Â M. Lazarte, R. Oros, P. Mamani 2016 âDesarrollo Participativo de Innovaciones TecnolÃ³gicas para Incrementar la Productividad de los Suelos AgrÃcolas en Regiones Andinas Deprimidas de Bolivia.â Read at the Community of Practice meeting, McKnight Foundation, Ibarra, Ecuador 11-16 July. See the paper here.
The farmer training video Growing lupine without disease can be viewed and downloaded on the Access Agriculture video-sharing platform in English, French, Spanish, and shortly also in Quechua and Aymara.
CULTIVO CON CARÃCTER FUERTE
Por Jeff Bentley
29 de enero del 2017
Una planta tiene una personalidad, y como la gente y los paÃses, algunos tienen mÃ¡s carÃ¡cter que otros. Considere el lupino (Lupinus mutabilis), por ejemplo. Es una leguminosa que crece casi en forma de cono, y gracias a sus flores gloriosas la planta es querida por jardineros en muchos paÃses. En Bolivia se llama âtarwiâ, del quechua, el idioma de los Incas.
Mientas mis colegas y yo filmÃ¡bamos un video en Bolivia, pedimos que doÃ±a Eleuteria en la comunidad de Phinquina nos contara quÃ© sembraba despuÃ©s de cosechar el tarwi. Ella nos sorprendiÃ³ cuando dijo que a veces sembraba papa despuÃ©s del tarwi. Es increÃble, porque las papas son tan exigentes que muchos agricultores andinos descansan el suelo durante aÃ±os antes de sembrar papas. Si no, el suelo tendrÃ¡ que mejorarse agregando toneladas de gallinaza. Los agricultores en los Andes bolivianos no compran gallinaza para otros cultivos, solo la mimada y valiosa papa.
Luego le preguntÃ© a Reynaldo Herbas de la comunidad de Tijraska, si Ã©l jamÃ¡s habÃa sembrado papas despuÃ©s del tarwi. âSÃ, y produce muy bien. El sembrar tarwi es como descansar sus suelo, o como usar gallinaza,â explicÃ³.
Los granos de tarwi son ricos en aceites y proteÃnas y doÃ±a Eleuteria a menudo los da de comer a sus hijos. Igual que algunas otras bolivianas, doÃ±a Eleuteria hace una merienda nutritiva con los granos cocidos, pero cuesta mucho trabajo. Los granos tienen que remojarse en agua durante tres dÃas antes de cocerse, para despuÃ©s dejarlos en el chorro del rÃo durante varios dÃas mÃ¡s para expulsar los amargos alcaloides.
El Ing. AgrÃ³nomo Juan Vallejos de Proinpa (un instituto de investigaciÃ³n) confirmÃ³ que el tarwi toma mucha agua para procesarse. Es irÃ³nico, porque el tarwi se recomienda para zonas secas con suelos empobrecidos. Existen variedades dulces, sin los alcaloides amargos, pero en Bolivia reciÃ©n empieza la bÃºsqueda por esos lupinos dulces.
Cuando visitamos a doÃ±a Eleuteria para aprender cÃ³mo ella procesa la semilla, nos mostrÃ³ cÃ³mo quitar los granos malos de tarwi, para asegurarse que el cultivo que siembra serÃ¡ sano. (La enfermedad principal es la antracnosis, causada por el hongo Colletotrichum gloeosporioides). Preguntamos a doÃ±a Eleuteria quÃ© hacÃa con los granos enfermos. PensÃ¡bamos que dirÃa que los enterraba para que las enfermedades no se diseminaran. Pero no, ella entierra a los granos descartados porque los granos crudos de tarwi son tÃ³xicos, bien sea sanos o enfermos.
El Ing. Vallejos explicÃ³ que las plantas de tarwi estÃ¡n tan cargadas de alcaloides que las ovejas y vacas no tocan al cultivo en la parcela. Sin embargo, la planta de tarwi es resistente a la sequÃa y hasta aguanta a la granizada, que a menudo arrasa con otros cultivos en los Andes. Los gobiernos locales en Bolivia empiezan a promover el tarwi como una adaptaciÃ³n al cambio climÃ¡tico.
Una planta puede tener una personalidad compleja, con cualidades de oro igual que algunos defectos trÃ¡gicos. El tarwi o lupino en muchas maneras en el cultivo perfecto: bien adaptado a los desafÃos del clima altoandino, mientras es nutritivo para la gente y bueno para el suelo. Su lado oscuro es que requiere de mucha agua para lavar los venenos que pueden matar a tus gallinas inocentes.
Para escribir este cuento en Cochabamba, Bolivia, tuve la buena suerte de estar acompaÃ±ado de Paul Van Mele y Marcella Vrolijks de Agro-Insight y Juan Vallejos y Maura Lazarte y otros de Proinpa. La visita se financiÃ³ por la McKnight Foundation.
Para leer mÃ¡s
Calisaya, J.J., Â M. Lazarte, R. Oros, P. Mamani 2016 âDesarrollo Participativo de Innovaciones TecnolÃ³gicas para Incrementar la Productividad de los Suelos AgrÃcolas en Regiones Andinas Deprimidas de Bolivia.â Trabajo presentado en la reuniÃ³n de la Comunidad de PrÃ¡ctica, McKnight Foundation, Ibarra, Ecuador 11-16 de julio. Ver la presentaciÃ³n aquÃ.
Para ver mÃ¡s
El video educativo para agricultores Producir tarwi sin enfermedadÂ estÃ¡ disponible para ver y bajar en inglÃ©s, francÃ©s, espaÃ±ol, y pronto tambiÃ©n en quechua y aymara, en la plataforma Access Agriculture que se dedica a compartir videos.
Nutritionists and physicians have started to question milk-drinking, suggesting that many consumers eat far too much dairy. Dr. Michael Klaper has even suggested that milk is just âbaby calf growth fluidâ, designed to âturn a 65 pound calf into a 400 pound cowâ, and that unless you have long ears and a tail, you should never drink the white stuff (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toZ7Mr-ClCE).
In other words, Dr. Klaper argues that cowÂ´s milk should be avoided because it was designed as calf food. But his reasoning is absurd reductionism, because most of what humans eat was meant to be something else, not people food. Wheat grains were intended to be seed, not flour. Honey is supposed to tide the hive over the lean season, not to be added to pastry. Fish certainly did not evolve so that people could make sushi.
Before agriculture, all humans were hunters-and-gatherers. They ate meat when they could (but seldom as much as people who get their food from the supermarket). They ate a bit of fat (wild animals can be pretty lean). Fish were part of the diet in many places and so were insects in a few areas where other sources of animal protein were scarce. Honey was occasionally on the menu, but no processed sugar. Some grains were eaten, but not much, because large-seeded grasses were not very common in the wild. The ancestral human diet was mostly fruit, nuts, roots, tubers and vegetables, and no milk.
This began to change about 8500 BC when wheat and a handful of other crops were dom
esticated in the Near East (Zohary et al. 2012). Studies at the site of Ãatal HÃ¼yÃ¼k, in what is now Turkey, suggest that farmers began to domesticate cattle at that same time. But the transition to agriculture was gradual, and early farmers still hunted; most of their meat still came from the wild. Livestock only began to provide most of the meat for Near Eastern farmers about 7500 BC, around 1000 years after the beginning of animal domestication (Helmer and Vigne 2007). It seems that then as now, farmers were adapting gradually, experimenting as they went.
Daniel Helmer (a specialist in the ancient Near East) and Jean-Denis Vigne (a zoo-archaeologist) suggest that during these early centuries of animal rearing, domestic animals were not kept so much for their meat, but for other products like traction, skin, hair, and manure, but most of all for milk. Archaeological evidence (especially remains of milk residues on pottery sherds) suggests that dairying was established by about 7000 BC in the Near East, and by about 5900-5700 BC in Britain, and in central Europe (Helmer and Vigne 2007).
Over the centuries, ancient farmers selected for cows that gave more milk. The modern dairy cow yields around 40 liters of milk a day during the first month of lactation, far more than the calf can drink. Milking allowed farmers to take food from their livestock every day, without killing the animals. The milk was rich in fat and protein, both of which were scarce in early agricultural diets.
There was one problem with ancient dairying; most people could not digest lactose, the natural sugar in milk. Human babies can digest the lactose in their mothersâ milk, but most lose this ability in adulthood.
Humans managed to eat milk products in two ways. One was to make cheese or other fermented products, where the yeast or lacto-bacteria broke down the lactose. The second way: some peoples evolved a genetic ability to absorb lactose, a trait governed by a single, dominant gene. Anthropologist William Durham asked why people would evolve the ability to digest fresh milk, if they could simply make it into easily digestible cheese. There must be a high adaptive advantage to being able to digest fresh milk, since in some populations, e.g. in Northern Europe, nearly 100% of the population has the genetic ability to digest fresh milk. It turns out that fresh milk is rich in vitamin D, which allows easy absorption of calcium. Durham reasons that this conferred a special advantage on people in cold countries, where they did not always get enough sunlight to synthesize their own vitamin D.
It is also possible that when people had been raising cows for centuries, and milk was abundant, people who could drink fresh milk were better fed than their neighbors, and so the milk-drinking gene spread through the population. That is my guess, but there is no doubt that the modern people who can drink milk are the ones whose ancestors tended cows in ancient Europe, Africa or South Asia.
If your ancestors were not dairying folks, you may be lactose intolerant. If you can drink milk, you can thank your forbearers who herded cows and put milk on the table.
Durham, William H. 1991 Coevolution: Genes, Culture and Human Diversity. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Pp. 228-259.
Helmer Daniel and Jean-Denis Vigne 2007 âWas Milk a âSecondary Productâ in the Old World Neolithisation Process? Its Role in the Domestication of Cattle, Sheep and Goats.â Anthropozoologica 42(2):9-40.
Zohary, Daniel, Maria Hopf and Ehud Weiss 2012 Domestication of Plants in the Old World: The Origin and Spread of Domesticated Plants in South-west Asia, Europe, and the Mediterranean Basin (Fourth Edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Access Agriculture has a small collection of videos for small-scale dairy farmers.
Related blog stories on the prehistory of food
A good video, one that lets farmers tell about their innovations, can spark the viewersâ imagination. A video can even convince smallholders to try a new crop.
Mpinda grows vegetables, and sells them in the market in Mwanza. In 2013, he was able to use his earnings to buy a small, gasoline-powered pump to water his beans, onions and tomatoes. A $100 pump is a major investment for a Malawian smallholder, but also a great way to save time and avoid the backbreaking labor of carrying water from the well to the plants during the long, hot dry season.
In June 2015, Ronald Kondwani Udedi left some DVDs with videos at a government telecentre managed by Mathews Kabira, near Mwanza, Malawi. The DVDs had learning videos for farmers about growing rice and chilli peppers and managing striga, the parasitic weed.
Mathews took one set of DVDs to Mpinda, because he was âa successful farmer. Mpinda had a DVD player, but no TV, so he watched the videos on chilli growing at a neighborâs house, using the neighbors TV and Mpindaâs DVD player. He watched the videos as often as the neighbor would let him. The more he watched, the more he learned.
Mpinda soon recognized the possibilities of chilli as a crop, even though he had never grown it.
To start a new crop you need more than a bright idea; you need seed. Getting chilli seed took some imagination. Mpinda went to the market and bought 20 small fresh chillies for 100 Kwacha (14 cents) and then dried them, like tomatoes, and planted the little seeds in a nursery, just like he had seen in the video. Mpinda had already been used to making seedbeds for onions and some of his other vegetables. At 21 days he transplanted the chilli seedlings, as he had seen on the videos.
Every few days Mpinda harvests three or four kilos of chillies and takes them to the market and sells them for 1000 kwacha a kilo ($1.40).
Mpinda has already planned his next step. After harvesting his little patch of eggplant, he is going to clear the land and plant a whole garden of chilli.
Mpinda has also watched the DVD of rice videos, and although no one in the area grows rice, he realizes that the crop would do well in the slightly higher space, just above his rows of vegetables. He has already looked for rice seed: there is none to be found in Mwanza and the agro-dealers wonât or canât order it for him, so he is going to travel to the city of Zomba, 135 km away, and buy rice seed there. Mpinda has already identified the major rice varieties grown in Malawi and decided that one of them, Apasa, is the best for highland areas like his.
He is going to plant rice in October, possibly becoming the first rice farmer in Mwanza district.
Mpinda didnât watch the rice and chilli videos as part of a farmer group. He didnât have an extensionist to answer questions. He simply had the videos which he could (and did) watch several times to study the content. And this information alone was enough to inspire him to experiment with two crops that were entirely new to him.
You can watch the chilli videos in English here: http://www.accessagriculture.org/search/chilli/all/
And in Chichewa here: http://www.accessagriculture.org/search/chilli/ny/
You can watch the rice videos in English here: http://www.accessagriculture.org/search/rice/en/
And in Chichewa here: http://www.accessagriculture.org/search/rice/ny/
These videos and others are also available in other languages at www.accessagriculture.org