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CTI has developed a suite of mechanized groundnut processing technologies designed to increase small farmers’ productivity, improve the quality of their groundnuts, and reduce women’s labor.

The suite of devices harvest groundnuts, strip pods from the roots, and shell whole nuts.

The lifter, stripper, and sheller were designed by a team of engineers and researchers from CTI and ICRISAT, in collaboration with smallholders from Malawi and Tanzania. The tools were field-tested extensively in the groundnut producing belt of Malawi from 2011 to 2014 and modified based on farmers’ feedback. Now that the tools are developed, we want to make sure farmers can access the tools, sell their nuts at a fair price, and profit. 

With support from the McKnight Foundation, CTI is working with local manufacturers to produce the tools in Malawi. We are piloting the technologies with farmers' organizations across Malawi—including NASFAM, the largest smallholder farmer group in the country. Farmers’ groups like NASFAM give farmers access to resources like new technologies, training, and good seed. With this partnership, farmers' organizations can now offer CTI's groundnut tools to their members—giving farmers the support they need to reap the full benefits of their labor. 

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Farmers traditionally harvest groundnuts by digging them with a hand-hoe and manually lifting the plants from the ground. CTI’s lifter consists of a frame with a blade that sinks below the ground’s surface to cut the roots of the groundnut vines and loosen the soil as the oxen or small tractor pulls forward. On the back of the blade, steel rods shake off excess soil and lift the plant away from the ground. The lifter can be adjusted to accommodate the heights of different users.

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After harvest, farmers traditionally spend several days tediously plucking groundnut pods from the plants by hand. CTI’s stripper is comprised of an A-shaped frame covered with a woven metal screen, similar to chain link fencing.

To operate the stripper, the user simply drags a groundnut plant across screen, putting pressure on the pods with one hand which allows the metal to snag the groundnut pods away from the plant and drop them through the screen to the ground or over a tarp.

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Typically, groundnuts are shelled by hand, and most often by women. Farmers commonly wet their pods to soften their shells, causing considerable risk of contamination from bacteria, fungus, and aflatoxin. CTI’s sheller is a hand-operated device that scrapes groundnut pods between a rotating disk and stationary steel rods. The gap between the disk and rods narrows as the nuts fall down the sheller, and the nuts are easily shelled with minimal broken or split kernels.

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Aflatoxins are the most toxic naturally occurring carcinogens known.

Aflatoxins are poisonous, cancer-causing chemicals that develop from mold and fungus, often as a result of improper storage and mishandled food. In many parts of Africa, aflatoxin contamination poses a serious risk to the health of rural communities. It’s also a major barrier to their ability to market their crops and earn a profit.

Engineers at CTI are working in partnership with crop researchers at ICRISAT to develop a testing kit to help farmers and researchers identify aflatoxin in peanuts. ICRISAT has created a simple strip test that develops an easy to read black line to indicate if the peanuts are safe to eat. CTI is researching simple, low cost technologies that can be adapted to chop the peanuts into a suitable sample size for testing.

With a low-cost, field- testing kit, farmers can identify aflatoxin contamination at its source, in minutes, and mitigate a major threat to rural health and incomes.