Feb 13, 2015 • By

Sharing knowledge can help feed the world – here’s how

As a global food company, we believe one of the most valuable and unique things that we have to offer in the developing world is knowledge.

Born out of this idea, in 2008, was Partners in Food Solutions (PFS), as a nonprofit founded by General Mills that links the technical and business expertise of volunteer employees from four global food companies – General Mills, Cargill, DSM and Bühler – with small and growing food companies in sub-Saharan Africa.

This spring, Jeff Dykstra, chief executive officer of PFS, decided to move his office from Minneapolis to the PFS Africa offices in Nairobi, Kenya. He recently shared with us a compelling first-hand account of how PFS continues to make an impact within even the most remote areas of the world.

milling africa

Here’s an excerpt:

These last few days I’ve had the unique opportunity to spend time in Kakuma, Kenya, home of the Kakuma refugee camps since the early ’90s. Kakuma is most widely known as the camp that the “Lost Boys of Sudan” arrived at en masse during the Second Sudanese Civil War, and was recently featured in the film, A Good Lie.

The word “camp” typically implies something orderly and with clear boundaries. This is far from an accurate description of the Kakuma area. Kakuma is home to more than 170,000 refugees who fled civil wars and violence in neighboring countries, including Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, D.R. Congo and more. 

As I write this, the weather here is a sweltering 100 degrees with dry winds kicking up dust devils across the landscape. It is hard to imagine the tragedies that led (and continue to lead) people to this desolate place, which – in contrast to where they came from – feels like a sanctuary. 

Jeff-Dykstra

Jeff Dykstra

Dykstra traveled to the Northern Kenya area this week as part of a special project with the World Food Program (WFP). WFP enlisted Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) – with support of the USAID – to train mill workers from several small mills across the Northern Kenya. With the right training, these mills have the potential to supply basic flour blend to the refugee camp’s school feeding program to help feed more than 67,000 kids at the camps every day.

The primary mission at PFS is to assist medium-sized mills and processors in sub-Saharan Africa in the business of making affordable, nutritious and safe foods. As these businesses grow, they positively impact the smallholder farmers that supply them and the consumers that use their products.

This is something PFS refers to as a virtuous cycle.

africa milling

In the case of the small and growing milling businesses in Northern Kenya, training them will have a positive ripple effect in multiple directions. Instead of importing milled grain from far away, WFP is spending less to buy local maize and sorghum creating a market for smallholder farmers across Kenya. In addition, each of these new milling cooperatives cut across both ethnic and country lines and creates opportunity for sustainable livelihoods of the millers and their families.

Dykstra writes:

Our training courses share best practices in food production developed by our four corporate partners over more than 100 years in the food business. Given our typical training courses and materials are geared toward experienced millers, for this particular training, we distilled the material down to suit our audience of new millers. 

Over the course of our two-day training, our expert TechnoServe staff as well as with a young local miller from one of our Nairobi clients, Dennis, led the class of 20. Keeping in mind that many of the millers in this training session have never sat in a classroom and are possibly illiterate, we combined both words and pictures with heavy, hands-on repetition. 

In the end, this training will arm participants with the knowledge they need to develop quality bread flour to support the Kakuma camps, at reduced cost. These types of mills represent where a majority of African food is processed, so bringing them best practices and necessary training, they will have the potential to reach millions more with safer, more nutritious, local food.

milling kenya

Since its inception in 2008, PFS has reached more than 600 small and growing food processors and millers in Africa.

“This particular training was one of the most rewarding experiences for me. It proved that our unique knowledge-sharing model has the power to make an impact on some of the smallest and hardest-to-reach millers on the continent,” says Dykstra. “We will be engaging with WFP to explore in the weeks and months to come how we might roll this training out on a much larger scale.”

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