Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Last Day in Estanzuela

Today was my last day of peanut testing in Estanzuela.  This morning, I removed the plastic screen on one portal of the UV scanner, in order to take some more pictures inside the box.  I got some pretty good pictures of contaminated peanuts under UV light, and you can see that some nuts have large clumps of Aspergillus Flavus attached to them, while most of the other nuts are clean. 

Junior operating the UNS to obtain
machine-shelled peanuts for testing
Afterwards, we continued preparing sample bags of peanuts that we will send to the lab for aflatoxin testing at the end of the week.  We prepared 7 samples of peanuts:
  1. Costa Sur – control, unshelled
  2. Chiquimula – control, unshelled
  3. Petén -  control, unshelled
  4. Petén – “bad” nuts, shelled
  5. Chiquimula – hand-shelled
  6. Chiquimula – machine-shelled
  7. Chiquimula – UV screened, machine-shelled
To keep the samples sterile and separate, we handled each of them using a different pair of surgical gloves for each sample, and sealed them in ziplock bags when they were finished.  In addition, to test the aflatoxin concentration in the air while using the UNS, Junior wore a surgical mask during the entire shelling process, and we saved that surgical mask in a separate ziplock bag for aflatoxin testing as well.  To prevent any additional growth of Aspergillus Flavus before they are tested in the lab, I am storing all 8 samples in an ice-cooler, which I will bring with me when I travel with Carlos back to Guatemala City tomorrow. 

At the end of the day, I went with Luis to the weekly city council meeting for Estanzuela, when they meet every Wednesday night from 5 pm onwards to take care of town affairs.  I only stayed for a short while, and when they invited me into the conference room, the Mayor of Estanzuela presented me with an award for The Full Belly Project, thanking us for our volunteer efforts to help their city.  They also gave me a personalized letter from the Mayor and the rest of the city council, showing their appreciation for our research to improve peanut production in the region. 

Receiving an award of recognition
from the Mayor of Estanzuela
Overall, the city of Estanzuela has been incredibly welcoming and supportive of The Full Belly Project and my research project during my entire stay here.  I cannot thank Luis enough for his generous hospitality during my visit; he and his family went above and beyond to accommodate me in their house for the entire week, even though I was a complete stranger in the beginning.  I am going miss the happy city of Estanzuela, and hopefully some day in the future The Full Belly Project will return to this place, and implement some more of the technology that we have to offer. 

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