Ana Escalante

Nourish International/Full Belly Project Finds Ways of Shelling Peanuts Effectively in Uganda

Every time I would go to the zoo as a kid, my Mom used to buy peanuts to feed the elephants; I would feed them some and eat the rest. I remember it took me a long time to shell the peanuts that I was going to eat, and sometimes I just got frustrated and quit. Many hands are getting a rest from shelling peanuts this summer in Uganda, which is the main income-generating activity for many women there. Thanks to a partnership between Nourish International/Full Belly Project, students are working on setting up a production facility that shells peanuts 50 times more efficiently than by hand.

According to Nourish International, “Peanuts serve as the primary source of protein for over half a billion people world wide, and currently women and children spend up to 8 hours a day painfully shelling peanuts by hand.”

The peanut sheller machine was invented by Jock Brandis after he saw the burden that shelling peanuts had on women in Mali. Afterwards, he created the Full Belly Project, a non-profit that focuses on development and delivers simple agricultural technology machines to people in developing countries. Their main objective is to create inexpensive technology that is readily available, cheap and with a long service life. The nut sheller machine is capable of shelling not only peanuts, but also shea nuts, pine nuts, neem nuts and pecans.

Nourish International is an organization that works with college students to increase awareness of world poverty and help them develop entrepreneurial, management and leadership skills while collaborating with other organizations to alleviate poverty. This summer, nine students from NI committed 5 weeks of their summer vacation to turning their business plans into reality in Iganga, Uganda. Chaz Littlejohn has been working on this project and sent an e-mail to the NextBillion team to let us know about his summer project. He was working to measure the economic impact that the peanut sheller has in the communities that purchase the sheller by taking a randomly controlled sample of 450 households and measuring changes in their income, expenses, crop production, time use and health. Chaz summarizes his experience:

“Overall it was a fantastic trip. We made a lot of contacts and by the time the last person from our group had left, our partner in Uganda had $1000 in his pocket from selling shellers.”

I think that this project is amazing; on the one hand, it is a new, small-scale industrial revolution in peanut shelling in small African towns. It reduces the burden of peanut shelling on the women who previously had to shell peanuts all day–now they can focus on other activities during their free time. Now peanuts have shifted from being a subsistence crop to a cash crop since they can commercialize the surplus. Lastly, the project doesn?t just aspire to make the shelling process more effective, but now they are even considering using the shells as an alternative fuel source for the cement company that supplies cement for the shelling machines.

More information about the Full Belly Project is available on its NextBillion Activity Entry, and on the Full Belly website.