How many heroes can create a revolutionary gadget that has changed the lives of poor farmers and costs only $28 and refuses to get rich from it? In the life of Jock Brandis, just a cursory look at the bloody fingers of women peanut shellers in an impoverished village in Africa is all it took to create the universal nut sheller from locally available sustainable materials.
A Canadian of Dutch descent, he has since passed on the skill to local farmers in Mali, where he first presented his model, and elsewhere on the continent where he trains them for free and still refuses to patent the cheap gadget which has impressed even infamous peanut farmers like Jimmy Carter. A Gift to the World, he calls it.
Mama, I promise to look this Brandis guy up for you and bring him to our village. My mama, in her 55 years, still finds time from her teaching job in the village school to employ farm hands to shell peanuts for her. And she reaps an impressive twenty 50 kg sacks a year. Not bad for her agrarian moonlighting, hmm…
Feted as a CNN Hero for his innovation, Brandis has worked with communities in 17 countries across four continents through his Full Belly Project to make hundreds of machines locally at minimal cost resulting in health benefits and increased family incomes.
In Africa alone, women spend four billion hours annually hand shelling peanuts, figures quoted on the project website estimate. The Full Belly project works to relieve hunger and create economic opportunities in developing countries through the design and distribution of labor saving, locally replicable agricultural devices.
From Haiti to the Philippines, from Malawi to Southern Sudan, from Mali to Guatemala, entire communities have been transformed by the UNS. In Haiti, the Full Belly project turned a pedal powered agricultural center into an electric powered one capable of running all day long, creating an inexpensive way to process peanuts for a kids charity there.
Now the project aims to focus on their research efforts on developing easily replicable, inexpensive devices that will allow for organizations to process their foods cheaply.
And what’s more, the UNS can easily be modified to shell coffee beans, shea (a lucrative crop for shea butter and oil) or jatropha, a biodiesel seed now being grown in many arid and semi arid parts of Africa and Asia.
The inventor says the gadget makes shelling work less tedious and increases productivity up to 50 times. He looks at a single machine working for an entire village, so 100 machines may as well do shelling work for 100 villages.
A Gift to the World captures the vision of the Full Belly Project – that rural communities in developing countries live lives of abundance, that they awake each morning to days of economic possibility and go to sleep each night with bellies that are full. Indeed!
Image used with permission of the Full Belly Project.