The Balmore Trust has been awarded £60,000 to help develop a pedal-driven rice threshing machine for Malawi farmers.
The trust, which imports fairly traded rice and other produce from a number of African countries, received the funding from the Scottish Government’s Small Grants Fund. It is the largest single award to date.
Chairman and founder of the trust, John Riches, said the project was the brainchild of Paul Tofield, from Dumfries.
He said: “Two years ago he met Howard Msukwa, one of the farmers whose rice we sell. Paul was deeply impressed by Howard’s determination and the sheer amount of work which his rice farming involved. When Howard told him that farmers thresh their rice by beating it against a log, Paul told him about the pedal-driven threshing machines they used to have in Orkney. That summer Paul went to Orkney and found an old machine. That was the basis for the three machines which have just reached Malawi.”
The grant will help to get the machines manufactured in Malawi, which will in turn provide jobs for locals.
Mr Riches added: “It will make low-cost machines available to farmers’ clubs, freeing them from the huge burden of threshing, and allowing them more time to develop their farms. We think it will make a big difference, increasing productivity without damaging the environment and like to think that this is one of the real advantages of doing fair trade.
“By building really close links with farmers you can enlist remarkable support. People buy their products and then help them find innovative solutions.
Humza Yousaf, Minister for Europe and International Development in the Scottish Government, said: “These threshing machines will make a huge difference to famers and communities in Malawi by improving crop production. It’s exciting to think that machinery built in Scotland is being used thousands of miles away to help farmers in other nations. We are proud to support the Balmore trust.”