Fighting Hunger, One Village at a Time

The Universal Nut Sheller (UNS) is part of the Full Belly Project. It’s really an amazing story about a device that has had a direct impact on a number of African countries. The story goes that Jock Brandis, an American inventor, was on a trip to Mali and saw some women who had been shelling peanuts leaving them with bleeding hands. This spurred him on to create a device that would help end hunger.


The Universal Nut Sheller in Africa
(Watch a video of a pedal-powered one in action)

How does it work?

The process works by centrifugal force and friction. The Universal Nut Sheller is basically a concrete cone within a cone, open at the top and bottom, with the interior cone being solid. The interior cone, or rotor, rotates on a shaft and has an attached handle (Note: only one moving part!). The user turns the handle around fast enough to spin the nuts to the outside through centrifugal force. The nuts fall between the surfaces and are rolled and squeezed, allowing the nuts and shells to fall through to the bottom. This mix of nuts and shells is then winnowed out, the old fashioned way.

Reach and Impact
According to the Full Belly Project, this machine is being used in 12 African nations, including; Mali, Uganda, Malawi, DRC, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leon, Sudan and Zambia.

The nut sheller is being used to shell more than just peanuts. As new villages take up the device, they turn it towards their own diverse nut shelling needs, such as jatropha, neem nuts, shea nuts or coffee.

Most importantly, he Universal Nut Sheller costs about $50-75 dollars to make, depending on the price of local materials, and will serve the needs of a village of 200 to 1000 people.

Like two past projects that we’ve highlighted on AfriGadget, this one is encouraging. Both the recently profiled see-saw power machine (possibly), and the KickStart pumps are based on the belief that sustainable economic growth comes through empowering local entrepreneurs to start, or extend, their businesses. In fact, the plans for the UNS are free and downloadable.

(Via Kaushal)

11 comments » Write a comment

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  2. This is a really remarkable and valuable tool. I’m not sure where I read it, but Jock Brandis said something to the effect that like any good tool should work for a very long time. The design is simple, but is carefully engineered. They took lots of time to get it just right. Appropriate technology is often rather sneered at, confusing elegant design with makeshift. But a machine that just works and is built to be in service for a hundred years or more is a thing of great beauty in my book.

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  4. @John Powers – I completely agree. The most elegant designs for developing regions are the ones that have staying power, can be created/fixed with local materials, and that don’t rely on a large amount of upfront capital investment.

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  6. Thanks for this post, Erik, have contacted Jock Brandis already. Hopefully our volunteers can help teach and promote this item this Summer [http://www.fullbellyproject.org/Documents/UNS.pdf].. have heard amazing, profitable things about the jatropha bushes which are all over Kenya.

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  8. Really good looking solution – I like the opportunities that could arise for related services eg manufacture, toll processing etc

    Also seems to be part of a development approach/model where a means of production is the donor contribution. I had a look at this in a blog that covered Full Belly Project, Hefer Foundation and Kick Start – LINK

  9. I am so glad that Afrigadget has mentioned the Universal Nut Sheller.

    I got to visit the Uganda 07 group led by Jock Brandis briefly, and it is truly elegant to see how design-adaptable the nut sheller truly is.

    I would be happy to discuss the Nut Sheller as a student and Africanist.

    In case you missed The Full Belly Project’s Founder and Director of Research and Development, Jock Brandis’ debut on CNN HEROES in February 2008 take a moment to view the link below.
    http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/wayoflife/02/28/heroes.brandis/index.html?iref=newssearch

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