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Zambia: Farmer boosts income by processing oil from sunflower

It’s seven o’clock in the morning and Naomi Kamuwikeni is quickly walking to the oil expeller at Gondar market. She is carrying sunflowers to process into oil. After she extracts the cooking oil, she can sell it and make more money from her harvest.

Mrs. Kamuwikeni says: “I choose to sell processed sunflower because I make more profits after adding value to my produce. I have been a sunflower farmer for many years but the profits improved when I started value addition.”

Mrs. Kamuwikeni lives in Chiyewe Tobacco Farm Block in Kasenengwa district in the Eastern province of Zambia. She has a two-hectare piece of land where she grows maize, groundnuts, soybeans, and sunflower, but she only adds value to her sunflower.

She learned about value addition from Breeze FM. Mrs. Kamuwikeni explains: “I learnt on radio that farmers can make more money if they add value to their farm produce. One of the crops mentioned was sunflower. It was this time when I started processing sunflower into cooking oil.” She stopped selling sunflower grains two years ago because she wanted to make more money.

To process sunflower into cooking oil, farmers use a grinding machine called an expeller. Because Mrs. Kamuwikeni does not have an expeller, she uses other people’s expellers and pays a processing fee.

She says, “After extracting the oil using the expeller, the oil is not clean enough to be sold directly to the community.” She cleans it by mixing every five litres of oil with one litre of water. She boils the mixture and lets it cool. After cooling, she filters the clean cooking oil and sells it in small bottles.

Most farmers prefer to sell their sunflower as seeds and grain rather than process it because they receive sales income immediately. But now that Mrs. Kamuwikeni is adding value to her sunflower harvest, she is making twice the money she used to make. A bag of sunflower weighing 25 kilograms is sold at 150 Zambia Kwacha (about $6.60 US). The same bag can be processed into 10 litres of cooking oil, which Mrs. Kamuwikeni can sell for 430 Zambia Kwacha (about $19 US). She sells the oil in 750-millilitre bottles for 28 Zambia Kwacha (about $1.25 US).

She pays 0.50 Zambia Kwacha (about $0.02 US) per kilogram to a miller who owns an expeller. The miller charges 1.50 Kwacha per kg if the farmer receives sunflower cake as well or one Kwacha without the cake. On average, the miller makes about 10,000 Kwacha ($440 USD) per month by renting the expeller.

Another benefit is that she can collect a by-product called sunflower cake and sell this to sunflower cake vendors at 1.20 Zambia Kwacha (about $0.05 US) per kilogram. Each 25-kilogram bag of sunflower gives Mrs. Kamuwikeni 10 kilograms of sunflower cake. 

From a hectare, Mrs. Kamuwikeni produces about 1,000 kilograms of sunflower. When she was selling it as grain, she used to make 6,600 Zambia Kwacha ($290 US). But now, with value addition, she is making 17,680 Zambia Kwacha ($780 US).

Bubala Soko is the agricultural extension officer for Kalichero Agriculture Camp. He says that adding value by processing sunflower into oil can boost income for small-scale farmers.

Mr. Soko explains: “Sunflower is a crop that can improve income levels of farmers if farmers add value to their produce. The oil from sunflower offers more benefits compared to selling sunflower seed. Sunflower is a good crop because farmers also sell the by-product of sunflower cake.”

Mrs. Kamuwikeni plans to buy an oil expeller and connect her farm to electricity so that she can start processing oil on her own. She explains, “I believe this will also increase my income from sunflower. I am also thinking of starting to extract oil from groundnut and making peanut butter since I also grow groundnuts.”

This resource was supported with the aid of a grant from The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) implementing the Green Innovation Centre project.

Photo: Christina Msafari in her sunflower field in Rudewa Mbuyuni location near Morogoro, Tanzania on May 27, 2014.