Editor’s Note: The following is the first in a multi-part series written by Anthony ‘Tony’ Peele, a social entrepreneur who co-founded Swahili Coast with his wife Caroline and a volunteer and board member of the Full Belly Project.
Tony Peele here — I’m a recent Wilmingtonian, having moved from western NC three years ago. Before that, I lived and worked in East Africa–and I was pleased to learn that there are a surprising volume of businesses, charities, and organizations working on international projects in Wilmington. I’m involved in two African projects headquartered in Wilmington: I’m a co-founder of Swahili Coast – a social enterprise that connects East African artisans with American consumer markets, and I’m a board member for the Full Belly Project, a non-profit founded by Jock Brandis to develop appropriate technology for addressing problems in the larger world.
A big part of my work involves getting on the ground in Africa. Once I finalized my dates for an upcoming trip I approached Port City Daily about doing a blog series about my upcoming trip to Zambia and Tanzania. The goal of this series is to give our Wilmington readers a window into the experience of working in international development and to illuminate the connections that exist between Wilmington and the larger world. For those interested, I’ll outline how you too can get involved in supporting the great work happening in our home city. I also hope that this series is a way to demystify some of our American perceptions of Africa, charity, and travel. For all readers, young and old, I want to impart to you a special piece of wisdom: The world has never been safer, or smaller. So if you want to travel, go out and see the world!
For the first leg of my trip, I’ll be flying first to Lusaka, Zambia, where I will represent the Full Belly Project’s ongoing efforts to bring real change to peanut farmers in Eastern Zambia. Our project there is about addressing a harmful fungus called Aflatoxin that grows in peanuts in the region. Our program in Chipata trains farmers on how to store peanuts in a way that reduces the amount of aflatoxin [a poisonous carcinogen produced by mold that grows on peanuts and other crops], and uses innovative technology to help market the peanuts to buyers that are interested in good quality peanuts.
I was recruited to be on the Full Belly Project board of directors last year because of my previous work as a Fulbright economist in Tanzania. Working with Full Belly has been a long time coming! On my first trip to Africa 10 years ago, I studied abroad at the University of Dar es Salaam. One of my UNC colleagues was from Wilmington, and he told me all about Jock Brandis, the man who developed a quirky but functional machine to help farmers in Africa shell peanuts. Learning about Jock was an inspiration for me, since the first time visiting Africa can be a little startling. People’s lives look very different than our lives back home in America, but to learn that any person can have an intention to solve a problem, even a world away, and have an impact brought comfort in that moment.
I’m currently in DC, and it’s just a short 24-hour transit to Lusaka. The first leg is 14 hours to Dubai. Wheels up! Let’s go!
You can follow along with my travels at @Anthony_Peele on Instagram
Find more information about Full Belly Project online.