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Expanding peanut production in West Africa

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Village Hope is working in several villages near Lunsar in Sierra Leone. Two goals are to improve nutrition, and increase economic development. Peanuts (also called "groundnuts") are grown in many of the villages. Shelling of the peanuts is done mostly by hand. We will be exploring mechanical shelling using shellers produced using the Full Belly Project Universal Nutsheller kit (need link!).

Related to this work, we have many questions, some of which we hope can be answered here by others. We will investigate all these questions (and many village-specific ones) when we are in-country starting in December and continuing through January. We will expand this article as we learn more, but we would obviously deeply appreciate any head start that the Appropedia community can provide.

  1. What variety of peanuts are best suited for growing in west Africa (with significant wet season and dry season)?
    1. What are the respective advantages of one variety over another, in this region?
    2. For example, is one variety better for eating, another better for animal feed, and a third better for peanut oil?
    3. Possibly, it might make sense to alternate varieties, maybe get two crops per season?
  2. What kinds of yields might one expect?
  3. Are there good mechanisms (manual or mechanical) for sorting the unshelled peanuts by size prior to shelling? (The FBP sheller must be tuned for size. When there is significant size variation, smaller nuts fall through with being shelled, and must be separated out and passed through again.)
 There is what i call a angled roller sorter. It consists basically of two rolls with a non parallel slot between
 them and the feed in end higher than the exit end. If you turn the rollers in such a way that both surfaces go
 upwards in the slot the good to be sorted is transported downwards on the rollers. If the slot then becomes wide
 enough for the good it drops through the slot. It is sorted in as many categories as you have separations below
 the rollers. Usually there are some baffles that keep the goods from escaping above the rollers.
 there is a video of such a sorter at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXl-b09b_W0
  1. What are known effective mechanisms for getting peanuts to market, either domestically or internationally in Sierra Leone, or elsewhere in west Africa?
    1. In other words, do villages form coops? Are there "peanut silos" that act as intermediaries?
  2. Potentially, an intermediary can operate a shelling business, traveling (with sheller) to a farm and shelling nuts, then buying some portion for resale elsewhere.
    1. What variations on shelling or brokering peanut sales have been shown to work?
    2. How is pricing established?
    3. Has anyone seen Microfinance get involved in peanut farming, shelling or pressing?
  3. We have heard that planting is limited in part due to the limits of manual shelling.
    1. Can anyone validate / quantify this?
    2. If shelling is eliminated as the bottleneck, what is the next obstacle?
      1. Plowing / field prep (any good ideas)?
      2. Purchasing seeds (approximate costs?)
      3. Maintenance (weeding? watering? protecting crop from pillaging by people or animals?)
      4. Harvesting (what is the window? how much labor? good mechanisms?)
      5. Storage? (what is the shelf life? are peanuts targeted by vermin / rodents? what can be done?)
      6. Does cooking improve shelf life? (what advantages of roasting v. boiling, etc?)
  4. How often should crop rotate? Field lie fallow?
  5. When is best to plant / harvest, given the weather patterns?
  6. How are peanuts cleaned after harvest?
  7. Is there a need to dry them prior to shelling?
  8. What good uses (e.g. composting, other) are there for the shells?
  9. If peanuts are pressed for peanut oil, should they be shelled first?
  10. Any experience with west Africans selling peanuts in local markets?
  11. Any experience selling the peanuts for export?
  12. Where can we get the materials to fabricate the shellers?
    1. sand, cement, sheet metal, nuts and bolts, wood for stand, wire mesh for sifting shelled nuts
  13. How to accelerate efficiency of sorting peanuts?
    1. Either prior to shelling (save time running small peanuts through)
    2. Or after first pass through larger adjustment (unshelled peanuts fall thru)
      1. 3 outputs: shelled peanuts, shells, unshelled peanuts
  14. Where to get mesh for sorting?
  15. is it more efficient to operate 2 or 3 shellers in semi-parallel, with different size adjustments
    1. This might help for handling several people’s peanuts in sequence:
      1. Pour all peanuts in first sheller.
      2. Some how sort output, and place unshelled peanuts in second sheller
      3. Otherwise, need to either make first pass for many people, then adjust, 2nd pass for each

Thanks in advance for your help! CurtB 00:22, 14 December 2008 (UTC)