The multi-function platform (MFP) is a machine that produces mechanical and electrical energy to reduce time and physical labor for many agro-processing activities required in rural areas. The heart of the MFP is a low speed diesel engine that can power several modules such as a cereal miller and thresher, a nut grinder, an oil press, a battery charger, and an electricity generator or water pumps. Beyond providing power in its function as a generator, the MFP mechanizes labor-intensive chores (such as milling grains) which normally require 2-3 hours a day to just a few minutes.
Since this is a simple diesel engine adapted to run on biofuel, an MFP can process its own fuel, pressing locally grown seeds such as sunflower and jatropha (a hardy inedible plant already grows in the region, producing several crops yearly of large oily seeds), thus achieving sustainability. Fitted with pumps, MFPs can pump water for irrigation and household water use.
Pilgrim Africa has been advised by Columbia University and Engineers Without Borders since 2007 on the MFP project, and teams of EWB students continue to visit each year. For CU-EWB's description of the program, see here. For the students' travel blog Summer 2011 please see here.
Over the years, Pilgrim Africa has worked with more than 40 farmer cooperative groups in the Teso region of NE Uganda, aiding them in resettlement and innovative agriculture techniques adapted to the region. Many of the cooperatives have achieved an impressive level of self-management, and are progressing towards legal registration.
Currently hundreds of farmers (from 4 of these cooperatives )are being trained to run, manage and grow the use of the MFP as a profitable and sustainable business enterprise. The training Pilgrim conducts, for representatives of the cooperatives, is geared to help them diversity their income base through value addition facilitated by the MFPl. This training prepares the leaders to handle all the operational, logistical and technical aspects of running the MFP for income generation.