This summer is the second summer of a pilot experiential service-learning project that seeks to create both a profound learning opportunity for MSU students and their Malawian colleagues and real-world improvements for urban small-scale food retailers in Lilongwe, Malawi.
In Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi, many people earn their living through small-scale food enterprises. In addition to the important economic role that such enterprises play, food-based livelihoods are also important to making food widely affordable and accessible to city residents. Many of these important food activities are carried out in the ubiquitous and lively open-aired markets, also known as “wet markets.” Though extremely important to urban economies and food security, lack of basic sanitation and failing infrastructure undermines the safe exchange of food and results in poor working conditions for food retailers.
Students will work with food retailers, university faculty members and municipal officials to identify, design and implement “frugal” solutions to some of the most pressing problems in urban food markets. Such solutions should have a broad and meaningful impact that can improve urban food environments for both retailers and consumers.
Resources in Malawi are scarce and small improvements are often beyond the scope of what market committees and municipalities can afford. Small grants can result in big improvements that will be broadly felt by both retailers and consumers alike. In addition, when stakeholders go through the process of planning how to use the funds, they build their capacity to organize and promote future improvements.
Building on the success of last year’s practicum, students will work in the same four markets. Because each market is dealing with different challenges, funds will be allocated differently, depending on the decisions reached during the planning. Reaching our goal of $5,000 means that each of the four markets will have $1,250 to spend on projects, which may range from toilet maintenance to improvements to storage or improved drainage.
We are the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation (GCFSI), a USAID funded development lab working as part of the Higher Educations Solutions Network. The mission of GCFSI is to create, test and scale effective solutions to food system challenges. Part of that mission, and the reason why labs are based at universities, is to prepare the next generation of problem-solvers to face our considerable food system challenges.
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