A hand-cranked machine that shells groundnuts is becoming available to small-scale farmers in Uganda. The Universal Nut Sheller is thought to be the first mechanical groundnut crusher simple and affordable enough to be used by small farmers. It does not need any electricity or fuel to operate.Groundnuts are an important source of food and income for many Ugandan families – but shelling groundnuts by hand is a long and tedious process, usually done by women. It is hard on their hands and can cause joint problems over time.
Five women’s farmer groups in remote villages of Iganga District in eastern Uganda recently bought the machines. Each group will be able to shell as much as 120 kilograms of groundnuts per hour with their new machine.
Noah Isanga is the director of Women Alliance and Children Affairs, a group that helped the farmers buy the machines. He explained that farmers earn more money by shelling groundnuts in their community rather than transporting them to a shelling centre.
The Universal Nut Sheller was designed by a Canadian engineer who worked in Mali with the Peace Corps. Originally, aid agencies bought the shellers from an American NGO called the Full Belly Project, and then gave them to farmers in West Africa and Uganda.
But last year, three Ugandan metal workers were taught how to manufacture the shellers, which are constructed out of metal and concrete. They now run a small business making the machines, which they sell for approximately 90 US dollars, or 50 Euros, each.
Henry Masagazi Kato is the executive director of Full Belly Uganda. He explained that the machines are designed to shell groundnuts soon after harvest. Farmers have found that they can be modified to shell other products, including wet coffee berries, shea nuts, neem nuts, and jatropha nuts.