Full Belly Project
The Full Belly Project Ltd is a non-profit organization based out of Wilmington, North Carolina, which designs labor-saving devices to improve the lives of people in developing communities. Their main devices are the Universal Nut Sheller (UNS) and the Rocker Water Pump. The first device they designed, the UNS, was a peanut sheller but farmers started using it for other crops. The UNS is now used for coffee, jatropha, neem, and shea in 15 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Since 2009, their research has been focused on designing a water pump.
Universal Nut Sheller
Their primary objective was to increase the cost effectiveness of peanut agriculture as a means of sustainable development in those countries, through the development of affordable appropriate technology. There are an estimated half billion people across the globe in over 100 countries, primarily in the equatorial regions and particularly in Africa, dependent upon peanuts as their primary source of protein.
The major limiting factor for growing peanuts has always been the time- and labor-intensive process of hand-shelling peanuts, a job usually relegated to women and children. Overcoming this technical obstacle has been a goal of agricultural research for some years. When Dr. T. Williams, Senior Research Scientist at University of Georgia and an expert on all 15,000 cultivars of peanuts, was first approached by Jock Brandis, the project's engineer, he stated that an affordable peanut sheller is considered the "holy grail of sustainable development".
The final design for the machine was completed in January 2005, and has come to be known as the Universal Nut Sheller. This relatively small, hand-powered device made from two pieces of concrete and a handful of metal pieces is able to shell at a rate of 50 kg of peanuts an hour. On average an individual woman or child can hand shell 1.5 kg of peanuts in a single hour. Furthermore, one set of fiberglass molds can reproduce an indefinite number of machines. Raw materials for the machine include only half a sack of concrete and a few metal parts, which cost less than $50 US per machine. Maintenance is nearly zero, and a machine's lifespan is estimated at twenty years.
Other versions of the UNS have been designed:
- A "electrical powered sheller" has been designed in 2008 after a request from an orphanage in Haiti and is also distributed in Guyana.
- A "pedal powered sheller" was designed in 2009 to shell faster. It has been distributed in the Philippines, in Guyana and in Guatemala.
Presently the organization is collaborating with like-minded development organizations in an effort to target areas most in need of this sustainable technology. Since finishing the final design of the Universal Nut Sheller, The Full Belly Project has distributed machines in The Bahamas, Uganda, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Gambia, Zambia, the Philippines, Haiti, Guyana, India, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Guatemala, Tajikistan, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, and Malawi.
With a few manual adjustments the machine is also capable of shelling winged beans, neem seeds (from neem trees, also known as margosa), jatropha curcas, wet and dried coffee, and shea. All of these seeds/nuts are lucrative once they have been processed. Most cultivation of these crops occurs in developing countries. Machines like the Universal Nut Sheller add value to these crops and instantly improve the lives of those who use these labor-saving devices.
Impact on women
This technology is particularly empowering for women in that it relieves them of the burden of hand-shelling jatropha curcas, shea, coffee and peanuts. Women provide the majority of agricultural labor, and with the time saved by this machine, would have the opportunity to dedicate themselves to other obligations. Collection of firewood, a chore often left to children, can be greatly reduced by the simple processing of shelled peanut hulls into fuel briquette.
- MIT Ideas (2006)
- Popular Mechanics Magazine – Breakthrough Award (2006)
- Carolina Challenge – Business Plan
- CNN Heroes – Jock Brandis (2008)
- Tech Awards Laureate (2008)
- Purpose Prize – Jock Brandis (2008)
- "The Full Belly Project - Frequently Asked Questions". The Full Belly Project. Retrieved 2010-09-18.