This was another IDDS project. It was shown to me by Stefanie Robinson who is currently working on her PhD in Mechanical Engineering at my Alma Mater, UC Berkeley.
So, basically the issue at hand is the fact that in the far reaches of Ghanaian village life, people grow a great many groundnuts (peanuts) for sale and subsistence. When harvested, the women will sit and pick through the roots to pluck the nuts out. It’s an extremely labor intensive method which takes them about a month a glean the nuts from a 0.4 hectare plot of land.
I liked how the group approached trying to make this less of a process in that they basically tried a number of methods to thresh out the nuts. The most basic of which was a curl of plastic that you could scrape along the plant to pull out the nuts. Another was a metal comb with jagged teeth to pick out the nuts which could be made with a hacksaw. The most successful with people in the villages though was what looked like a folding table with a large mesh grid on the top. People can press the nut plant along the grid and scrape out the nuts quite quickly. They estimate that it is at least five times faster for an individual and 10 times faster for a group using this table grater method.
The grater is also quite cheap. The prototype costs about $6 USD and would be even cheaper if mass produced. It’s also produced from materials that are all available locally. In a word, it’s quite perfect for the environment.
They did try some things that weren’t nearly as good. Like so many groups in the IDDS, they tried to work in bicycles, but found that they weren’t so ideal for the task at hand. They first realized that the spokes of a bicycle gear would work great when turned sideways, but the problem then was was that the chain fell off the gears. Working to create a more complex device increased the cost and wasn’t completely tenable.
I was curious as to why Stefanie thought that these solutions didn’t currently exist. They are after all extremely simple systems that are cheap to build. Her thoughts were that it was just due to a lack of exposure to the possibilities on their end. As for those in a place like Accra who do have the exposure, there is a lack of communication with those in these villages to make things like this happen. Naturally then, for something like this to be successful, they are going to have problems. Essentially, it comes down to the issue that they need marketing to these communities so that folks could make these themselves. Whatever the case, I hope it works as it seems to be a very practical solution to a common task.
Makers: Groundnut Threshing