Making Peanuts Pay in Zimbabwe

by Tungamirai Rukuni and Angeline Mutungamiri


Groundnuts are widely grown by women throughout all districts of Zimbabwe. They are valued for family nutrition and raising income through sale of unprocessed and processed nut. Many women process nuts into peanut butter for home consumption and for sale, either in their local areas or in the towns and cities. Peanut butter is very nutritious and used in many ways, by:


  • adding to porridge especially to feed young children;

  • spreading on bread;

  • making a sauce for vegetable and meat relish; and


Adding to cooked cereals, especially rice and maize samp.The traditional method of processing groundnuts into peanut butter is to pound the roasted nuts in a pestle and mortar and then finally grind to a fine paste on a millingstone. The process has a low productivity and is very labour intensive. However, the returns from selling peanut butter are very high, more than double the value of raw nuts.


In 1996, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and women's groups approached the Development Technology Centre (DTC) to assist with improved technologies to processnuts in peanut butter. The DTC,with finance and technical

assistance from Compatible Technology Incorporated (Minnesota, USA) and Food Industry Crusade Against Hunger (USA), developed and field-tested equipmen

t to shell, roast and grind nuts. The DTC worked with large numbers of women's gr

oups throughout the country, in collaboration with NGOs and government departments such as Zimbabwe Women's Bureau, TOCH Zimbabwe and the Ministry of National Affairs and Employment Foundation. The overall objective of the project is to raise incomes of rural families through peanut butter processing.


With the very high adoption of peanut butter processing technologies by rural women, the volume of rural production warrants that the women should penetrate more markets. This required them to meet desired health and quality standards. The project aims at enabling the entrepreneurs to meet the quality and health standards through the following activities:


  • Establishing operational and equipment design factors for production of high quality peanut butter.

  • Establishing the suitability of the groundnut varieties grown in Zimbabwe for the production of high quality peanut butter.

  • Reducing health risk factors such as presence of aflatoxin and other health  endangering, undesirable micro-organisms.


This work has begun to pay off, and some women's groups are able to sell the products in retail shops and supermarkets. An example is Panorama Group, which is based in Mt Darwin, Mashonaland Central Province, and whose processing faci

lities and products meet the requirements of the Standards Association of Zimbabwe. It has been awarded a license.


The success achieved by this group demonstrates that there are opportunities to reduce hunger and poverty in rural areas of Zimbabwe and other countries in the region through improved crop processing. This example could be applied to other locally produced crops. At the moment some commercial manufacturers are assessing the possibility of joining with the women's groups so that they can market the peanut butter on their behalf.


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