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(Harms) Maréchal & Baudet
Macrotyloma geocarpum is also known as the ground bean, geocarpa groundnut, Hausa groundnut, or Kersting's groundnut. In French it is often called la lentille de terre. Macrotyloma geocarpum is an herbaceous annual plant and a crop of minor economic importance in Sub-Saharan Africa, tolerant of drought, with a growth habit similar to that of the peanut.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||1,457 kJ (348 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||5.5 g|
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Macrotyloma geocarpum is a pulse belonging to the legume family. It is primarily produced in western Africa, specifically in Benin and surrounding regions. It can provide nutrition, income, and the ability to alleviate hunger given the further production and enhancement of current practices.
Yields reach 500 kg/ha (450 lb/acre) in dry seed.
Early 20th century, west Africa
Following the construction of the Nigerian railway system, which extended from Lagos in 1896 to Ibadan in 1900 and Kano in 1911, the Hausa of northern Nigeria became major producers of groundnuts. They surprised the British, who had expected the Hausa to turn to cotton production. However, the Hausa had sufficient agricultural expertise to realize cotton required more labor and the European prices offered for groundnuts were more attractive than those for cotton. "Within two years the peasant farmers of Hausaland were producing so many tonnes of groundnuts that the railway was unable to cope with the traffic. As a result, the European merchants in Kano had to stockpile sacks of groundnuts in the streets.". This is a great example of the African initiative taken by peasant producers to adapt to a cash economy. It is not clear, however, whether the "Hausa groundnut", Macrotyloma geocarpum, was the groundnut being produced in such significant numbers, as peanuts and Bambara groundnuts are also grown in the region.
Macrotyloma geocarpum is noted for relatively low yields, but high protein content  and desirable flavour. Per 100g of dried grain, it consists of 9.7g of water, 348 kcal, 19.4g protein, 1.1g fat, 66.6g carbohydrates, 5.5g fibre, 103 mg calcium, 392 mg phosporus, 15 mg iron, 0.76 mg thiamin, 0.19 mg riboflavin, and 2.3 mg niacin. Leaves can also be eaten.
Benin is located in the Savanna of Africa which hosts weather conditions that are fairly humid in the south while being semiarid in the north . It offers growing conditions for a variety of crops that can be intercropped in the differing seasons, known as the dry season and rainy season, as well as having differing climate between the north and south. Southern climate is primarily stable, maintaining temperatures between 27-32 degrees Celsius in the warmest season and 22-25 degrees Celsius during the colder season. In the North, temperatures fluctuate between 27-32 degrees Celsius in the dry season and 25-27 degrees Celsius during the lowest season.
Mergeai notes that cultivated forms of Kersting's groundnut are known, but not commonly grown, in coastal African nations from Senegal to Nigeria. Tamini records the declining cultivation of Kersting's groundnut in the south west of Burkina Faso.
The geocarpa groundnut pod develops in the ground in pods in regions in Benin under the previously noted climate conditions (see above). The growing conditions that allow for the success of the groundnut are seen in several countries across Africa in the Savanna.
While the groundnut provides nutrition and the potential to alleviate hunger in Africa, it also offers potential to reduce poverty by contributing economically to small scale farmers. In Benin in 2012, a kilogram of the geocarpa groundnut could sell for $2–$4 - roughly 3-5 times the price of rice - and selling up to 30 bags a day produces noteworthy incomes. Specifically, incomes average $1000 a month for this product alone. Considering that this crop is being produced on an average of 0.48ha of land, the underutilization is evident. Increasing the size of farming land for this crop would be extremely beneficial to both producers and consumers, as it would allow for a greater generation of the crop and enhance the availability to the greater population. With the generation of $1000 monthly incomes, the possibilities that the geocarpa groundnut offer to the economies of small-scale farming in Benin and other regions is promising.
Constraints to wider adoption
Macrotyloma geocarpum is a crop that has been reducing in production for years. The reduction is causing the adoption to halt, as farmers in regions new to the crop are unwilling to take chances with crops not seen to be a feasible option. With proper implementation and production practices, these constraints can be lifted. One problem is that it is viewed as crop for elders to farm; a reduction in plantation has been occurring and will continue to decrease unless wider adoption is met. Further education in agriculture practices could alleviate this issue.
Rusts and mildews can be problematic diseases for this crop in the more humid parts of its range.
Macrotyloma geocarpum is indigenous to west Africa, but is not widely grown there, and shows low levels of morphological variation. The need to maintain genetic diversity and food security by continuing to grow this crop throughout its historical range may be more important than promoting its adoption in new regions. It is most widely grown where there are markets for it and where there is a history of religious and cultural significance for the crop.
Although variation in regions may be present, Benin is host to a very female empowered agriculture enterprise1. Holding the main role in marketplace interactions, women have an important role in both the production and sale of their products. In southern Benin, where primary production occurs, both men and women contribute. In the north however, operations run by primarily females is dominant2. Women contribute to the production of many underutilized crop species in Benin more than their counterparts, and the increase in production could enhance the position and empowerment of women in Africa.
The geocarpa groundnut can be rotated with other species, thus reducing the risk of health degradation to soils. Producing as much as possible without degrading soil quality is as important as the crop itself, but with proper implementation the production can carry on to harvests that will bring upon wealth, both in the economical and health sides of the matter.
- Plant resources of tropical Africa. Cereals and pulses. Plant resources of tropical Africa (PROTA). Backhuys Publishers. Eds. Brink, Grubben, etc. 2006. ISBN 90-5782-170-2 p. 100. Cites Leung, Busson & Jardin 1968.
- Shillington, Kevin. "History of Africa", 3rd edition, 2012. Palgrave MacMillan, UK. Page 348. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
- Bayorbor, T.B. et al. "Morphological variation in Kersting’s groundnut (Kerstigiella geocarpa, Harms) landraces from northern Ghana ", ''Agriculture and Biology Journal of North America'', Milford, Connecticut, 2010, 1(3): 290-295. Retrieved on 27 April 2015.
- Mergeai, Guy. "Influence des facteurs sociologiques sur la conservation des ressources phytogénétiques. Le cas de la lentille de terre (Macrotyloma geocarpum (Harms) Marechal & Baudet) au Togo.", Bulletin des Recherches Agronomiques de Gembloux, Gembloux, vol.28, issue 4, 1993. Retrieved on 27 April 2015.
- Tamini, Zoumbiessé. "Étude ethnobotanique de la Lentille de Terre (Macrotyloma geocarpum Maréchal & Baudet) au Burkina Faso", Journal d'agriculture traditionnelle et de botanique appliquée, vol. 30, issue 1, 1995. Pages 187-199.
- Dansi, A. et al. "Diversity of the Neglected and Underutilized Crop Species of Importance in Benin", Scientific World Journal, 2012. Retrieved on 27 April 2015.
- prota article
- fao article
- McSweeney, C. (n.d.). Benin. Retrieved from UNDP Climate Change Country Profiles: http://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/research/climate/projects/undp-cp/UNDP_reports/Benin/Benin.hires.report.pdf*
- Dansi, A., & Akpagana, K. (2012). Diversity of the Neglected and Underutilized Crop Species of Importance in Benin. The Scientific World Journal, 1-24.
- ASSOGBA Kossigbé Epiphanie Prisca (2013). Ethnobotanical study and agro-morphological evaluation of Kersting's groundnut (Macrotyloma geocarpum Harms) in Benin. Benin: IRDCAM.