Abstract for: Supply Chains as Catalysts for Sustained Systemic Change: Groundnuts and Aflatoxins in Malawi

Developing countries face interconnected dynamic challenges with significant implications for long-term resiliency. These include rapid population growth, chronic illnesses, poverty, food security, and armed conflict. Agricultural yield gaps—the difference between potential and actual yields—can be substantial, and supply chains—including harvest, storage, and transportation infrastructure—can be underdeveloped. Supply chain improvements might catalyze performance along multiple dimensions. Consider groundnut production in Malawi. A calorie-dense legume, rich in protein and unsaturated fat, groundnuts are an important food source for small landholders, and historically have been an important export crop. The export market collapsed in the late 1980s, partly as a result of high levels of aflatoxin contamination in the supply chain, and has not yet recovered. Aflatoxin contamination in the supply chain remains a potential barrier to export and a health risk for producers. Consumption of contaminated groundnuts can result in stunted growth of children, suppressed immune systems, and liver cancers. Because it provides a robust framework for representing and simulating feedback-rich social-ecological systems, system dynamics has potential for supporting efforts to improve sustainability and resiliency. A preliminary model was developed to represent the supply chain for groundnuts in Malawi. The model provides an experimental laboratory for exploring supply chain modifications aimed at reducing aflatoxin entry points and improving health, income and food security outcomes.