A group of Lambton College students recently took a bite out of national competition by announcing the operation of its first peanut butter production facility in partnership with Zambian farmers.
The full-scale operation, located in the town of Monze in southern Zambia, is currently producing 250 jars of peanut butter a week, employing a total of 36 farmers and food service workers to grow the peanuts and manufacture what they've called Hippy Peanut Butter.
While the facility has been operational since February, Enactus Lambton waited until this month to make the announcement at the Enactus Canada National Exposition held in Vancouver.
“It was fun to do it on the national scene and people were just really blown away at how the Zambian farmers have come full circle, from not being able to feed themselves to now having a production facility in food services,” said Jon Milos, director of entrepreneurship at Lambton College.
That new project – along with its long-running One Seed initiative – helped Enactus Lambton add to its hardware from national championships.
The Lambton College team was named the TD Entrepreneurship Challenge National Champion – its fourth time holding the title in five years of competition – after defeating teams from big-name business schools like Simon Fraser University and the University of Ottawa.
“I'm pretty excited about this,” Milos said. “It's 20 championship titles – nine national and 11 regional – and we've only participated for five years.”
The Lambton team was also a runner-up in two categories – eco-living and women's economic empowerment – at the Enactus Canada National Exposition.
More than 1,500 students from across Canada competed at the annual entrepreneurship competition, presenting their work to improve economic, social and environmental conditions in communities around the world.
Enactus Lambton has focused its work in southern Zambia, helping locals there build their own schools and health-care clinics over the years.
But the backbone to those projects has been economic development efforts done in partnership between Enactus Lambton and Zambian communities.
More than 10,000 Zambian farmers are currently participating in One Seed, a program that increases crop yields, and thus revenue, through the adoption of no-till farming practices.
And now with the addition of Hippy Peanut Butter, Milos said Enactus Lambton's partner communities can start fulfilling more community-building social projects like new schools and health-care clinics.
“This was their plan all along,” he said. “Their No. 1 goal was to put food in their stomachs and they've done that and now they've earned enough money that they can begin to create an economy.”
Farmers behind Hippy Peanut Butter hope to get their product into Shoprite, a large Zambian grocery chain who has expressed interest in a run of 2,500 jars a week.
But before their product can go into large retailers, Milos said the Zambian Agricultural Bureau of Standards has to give the group all the approvals – something they hope can happen this summer.
Enactus Lambton also hopes to help farmers iron out some of the kinks in the their peanut butter production system.
“We have more demand than supply right now because we've got to learn to grow and be more efficient in the production of the peanut butter,” Milos said.
But the interest is there from Lambton College students who want to continue to help Zambians succeed.
Over the last two years, Milos said Enactus Lambton has grown to include students from many different disciplines, including nursing and technology programs.
He credits Enactus Lambton faculty advisor Matt Hutchinson for helping to promote the group to a broad range of students.
“People are learning about the success of the team and the projects we're doing and they want to get involved.”