Originally published on August 13, 2014.
Habiba Njaa and Arafa Mwigiliera knew life experience was the best teacher and, when it came to shelling groundnuts, they were ready to advance to the next level.
The pair hailed from Mwaya Village in southern Tanzania’s Ulanga District — a village known for producing the hard-shelled fruit. They were experts, but there was a catch: Habiba and Arafa were grinding nuts with their bare hands because they did not have access to the equipment that would enable them to do otherwise.
“It was a very tedious and boring activity; you have to sit down all day long shelling groundnuts,” Habiba explained.
Habiba Njaa and Arafa Mwigiliera shell groundnuts using technology they developed through the Innovations in Gender Equality to Promote Household Food Security program
She took Arafa to workshops conducted by the Innovations in Gender Equality to Promote Household Food Security program (IGE), a two-year program funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Land O'Lakes International Development.
While there, they participated in community-centered technology design trainings for smallholder farmers, the majority of whom are women. They developed prototypes in group settings and received in-depth coaching from MIT D-Lab trainers. Together with three other group members, Habiba and Arafa created a new technology that can shell up to 20 kg (44 lbs) of groundnuts in just five minutes — an amount of work that used to take an entire day when shelled by hand.
It is a simple, yet innovative idea: train rural people how to develop simple technologies by using low-cost, locally available materials. Give them the skills, networks, resources and decision-making power needed to complete critical tasks, and they will solve their own problems.
“I used to shell 100 kg (220 lbs) bag of groundnuts for five days. Now, with this machine, I can spend just 30 minutes to shell 100 kg of groundnuts,” Habibi boasts. Even her spouse is getting in on the action. “It’s amazing! There was no way my husband could sit down for more than three hours help shelling groundnuts. Shelling groundnuts was regarded as a women’s work. But now with this new innovation we have achieved, we are now working together with our husbands in shelling groundnuts, since it is just a few minutes’ work.”