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Vita-Goat supports local food security

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(Soy) Milk for Life: Malnutrition Matters, Africare, and the Miracle VitaGoat

The VitaGoat idea is simple: furnish rural communities with the means for preserving perishable surplus foodstuffs in the absence of electricity or running water so the surplus can be stored and consumed in the off-seasons, or packaged and sold locally for profit.

The system, composed of a pedal-operated grinder, steam boiler, pressure-cooking vessel and filter press invented by the Canadian non-profit organization Malnutrition Matters, can process high-protein, soy based foods (including soy milk, soy tofu and soy yogurt), peanut and other nut butters, and fruit and vegetable-based foods such as soups, sauces and purees, and can also grind cereals and grains into meals and flours. Costing US$2800 (excluding shipping, taxes and duties), Malnutrition Matters estimates that the VitaGoat will pay for itself within a year, based on 3-4 hours a day of production.

VitaGoat promotes use of locally available and affordable products, putting food security back into the hands of rural communities and the farmers who grow the produce and improving family nutrition. Being able to package and store surplus foodstuffs also facilitates income generation and entrepreneurship.

The VitaGoat project was first deployed in 2004, in the Sussendenga district of Manica Province, Mozambique, by the US based development organization, Africare, which chose a local widow to implement the VitaGoat project there. Dona Rita began by producing just 36 liters of soy milk a day but over time was able to generate soy milk output comparable to pilot projects in Guinea and Chad that showed VitaGoat could generate 20 to 40 liters per hour of liquid-based items and between 6 and 12 kilograms per hour of ground meals. In other words, a single VitaGoat can make enough soymilk for 500 to 1000 people per day. Dona Rita, who now lives in a modest but well tended house equipped with a private latrine and owns about a dozen cattle and as many or more goats, regards the VitaGoat as a miracle.

Africare also has installed the Vitagoat in its programs in Guinea, Chad, Mali, and Zambia. During 2007, five new VitaGoats will be installed; one in Burkina Faso and four in Zambia. Brian Harrigan, Africare's Country Representative in Zambia, explained that, "one VitaGoat will be installed with an organization called All Kids Can Learn," which has programs for orphans and vulnerable children and focuses on agriculture. A second VitaGoat will be go to a youth group participating in the RAPIDS (Reaching HIV/AIDS Affected People with Integrated Development and Support) program which seeks to foster income generating activities amongst youth affected by the AIDS pandemic. Others will be installed with a youth group in the town of Nchoma and a group in the town of Kitwe.

Sustainability and human capacity building are pillars of Africare's programs and the Vitagoat adheres to its mission by using locally available products that can be purchased by most of the population.

This year, the VitaGoat is being introduced to North Korea by the Canadian group, First Steps, and Malnutrition Matters hopes to expand manufacture and training into India, where construction of a number of models is currently under way.

Organizations cited in the story:

  • Malnutrition matters, 498 Rivershore Crescent, Ottawa, Ontario K1J 7Y7.  Email. The organization primarily supports NGO's, PVO's and entrepreneurs to develop and expand nutrition and employment programs in developing countries. A main objective is to help create sustainable micro-enterprises centered on these affordable food technologies. Technology transfers, to allow the fabrication, training and service to be done in developing countries, are a principal goal and are already in progress.
  • Founded in 1970, Africare currently has programs in 25 African nations and works to assist communities with a holistic approach to development. Areas of focus include food security, improved agriculture, health and HIV/AIDS, emergency response, clean water access, environmental conservation, basic education and micro-enterprise assistance via micro lending). .

This story is adapted from an article included in the November 2006 edition of Development Challenges, South-South Solutions, the e-newsletter of the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation of UNDP.


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