Liberation shareholders in Malawi lead the way to secure more value for small-scale peanut farmers.
The peanut harvest season in Malawi’s central region is well underway. Since March, farmers have been busy lifting the nuts, stripping them from their stems, drying and sorting them ready for sale.
Peanuts provide farmers in this impoverished region with both cash and food. Farmers sell most of their crop and keep the rest for their own consumption throughout the year. This year, the rains were considered good and so far, farmers have reported good yields.
Liberation is working with its shareholder farmer group based in the district of Mchinji to shift from buying shelled nuts to buying unshelled peanuts. In the past, most farmers shelled their nuts by hand, or paid for them to be shelled, and sold the kernels. We have now set up a central warehouse where shelling can be carried out which makes life easier for farmers and improves peanut quality
At their AGM in October last year, many farmers first heard about the ‘Nut in Shell’ trial and were eager to know more. Many reflected on the drudgery of hand shelling and the time it takes to shell a bucket of nuts. Often it is women who carry out this work, fitting it around other household chores. Consolata Mkowa from Mchinji, a farmer and single mother of three children reflected “Hand shelling takes a lot of time. It is also painful for the thumbs”.
Graciano Gawamadzi, the Mchinji farmer co-op’s Business Manager, explains what this involved “We alerted our farmer members that we would buy nuts in shell on specific market days – we gave them a good price because we wanted good quality nuts”.
Men and women farmers came with their nuts in shell on the market days and over several weeks the co-operative bought nuts in shell. Farmers were happy with the price and the word quickly spread. The nuts were shelled in the new shelling line at Kamwendo warehouse and the co-op was able to establish different grades of nuts which were sold to different buyers with different quality and size requirements.
The project coordinator Audrey Namwaza explains the reason for the Nut in Shell approach. Buying nuts in shell is important for three reasons:
- With good quality nuts we can sell at a higher price to traders. We can control the storage, shelling and the grading and we can test the moisture and aflatoxin levels and remove the bad nuts.
- We can get a better price. For good quality nuts, we will get a high-end buyer like Nkhoma hospital, and even the grade-outs, and smaller and split nuts we find a buyer who will pay a good price for those too.
- We also save farmers time and money – they do not need to shell the nuts anymore. They can spend time with their family on other household chores or other income generating activities, like their vegetable gardens or looking after animals.
The current trial is a learning experience for everyone. The next aim is to secure even more volume and be able to export peanuts to Liberation in the UK – keep your eyes peeled for Malawi peanuts!
Feature Photo – Consolata Mkowa from Mchinji