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Donate to support student-driven innovation in Malawi!

Published: Wednesday, 14 Jun 2017
Author: Katherine Laurel Deska
Department: Global Center for Food Systems Innovation

Support student-driven innovation and advance urban food security in Malawi! The Global Center for Food Systems Innovation launched a CrowdPower campaign to improve the working conditions in two of Lilongwe's open-air food markets. All donations will be used to implement student-advised innovation plans, created after hands-on field research during the annual Frugal Innovation Practicum this August. Help GCFSI raise $2,500 by July 17, 2017!

Selling fruits and vegetables for a living is an important job. People who do this work save us time and effort. In African cities, people who sell fruits and vegetables are often in business for themselves and commonly work in lively open-aired markets similar to farmers' markets in the United States. They make good and nutritious food available to city residents at reasonable prices and within walking distance of most peoples' homes.

As any small businessperson will tell you, being in business for yourself means having to carry out all the tasks that, in a larger organization, would be divided up among multiple people. In African cities, food retailers' jobs are further complicated by a range of issues that small business people in the US never have to consider.  Imagine, for example, doing this important job in an environment where basic amenities are absent and where the struggle to grow your razor-thin profit margins is frustrated by the fact that you have to pay to use the bathroom; where electricity is in short supply and you sometimes have to navigate the uneven and narrow market paths in the dark; and where storage facilities are inadequate or unavailable so that you either leave your product out at night, risking theft, or haul it elsewhere before going home.

These are the everyday issues that students in the Frugal Innovation Practicum set out to solve. Student teams consult with market committees, decision-makers and the Lilongwe City Council to develop sustainable, feasible and locally-controlled plans to address the market's underlying challenges. 

Led by GCFSI's Dr. Stephanie White, City-Regional Food Systems Lead, the practicum is designed to build upon the work of previous student cohorts. Last year, crowdsourced funds enabled the installation of community taps so more people could have access to clean and running water; installation of a gate to improve market security; and installation of restroom facilities. 

"I am really excited that something concrete came out of our work," said Christine Sauer, former FIP participant. "The city council actually listened to our presentations and took action on some of the issues we raised; it means that the work we did was meaningful."

With your generous support, students can convert their research findings into actual change in local food systems in a country struggling for food security. Should GCFSI raise our goal of $2,500, each of the four student groups will have $625 to make infrastructure improvements. 

Housed within MSU's International Studies and Programs unit, the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation addresses critical pressures on the world's food supply by creating, testing and enabling the scaling of solutions. GCFSI takes a multidisciplinary approach that encompasses the entire food system and considers major environmental, economic and social trends, as well as workforce development needs that will impact future food security. Launched in 2012, GCFSI is one of eight development labs established through the Higher Education Solutions Network of the United States Agency for International Development.