A strategic partnership grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of the Feed the Future initiative has led Zambian company Jungle Beat to become the first-of-its-kind groundnut processing facility in Lusaka. The grant, awarded to the company for state-of-the-art cleaning, sorting and grading equipment, will enable Jungle Beat to export surplus Zambian groundnuts to South Africa for the first time, a move that is expected to facilitate more than $6 million in trade.
Although demand has grown steadily, peanut production in South Africa has declined significantly in the last decade, from 140,000 to 65,000 tons per year. According to Jungle Beat Director Peter Nieuwoudt, Zambia’s ideal climate conditions could support major increases in peanut production and yields to rise to meet this demand. “Zambia could be a major regional groundnut producer, he says, “and more than double current production,” which is already at 160,000 tons annually.
When Nieuwoudt first started the company, he drove around Zambia in his truck searching for farmers to be part of Jungle Beat’s grower network, pitching a tent in any village he found himself in when the sun went down. Today, Jungle Beat buys groundnuts from 11,000 smallholder farmers, organizing collection at central points and teaching farmers about ideal planting times, disease prevention and soil inputs to reduce acidity.
New equipment purchased with the Feed the Future grant from USAID will be capable of cleaning, sorting and grading four tons of groundnuts per hour at the Lusaka factory – enough for Jungle Beat to increase purchases from small-scale farmers by up to 10,000 tons per season. Nieuwoudt sees exports to South Africa reaching 50,000-100,000 tons annually within three years. As he oversees installation of the new equipment, he acknowledges that “USAID’s grant made the key difference, as we could not have proceeded without it at this stage.”
The impact at the grassroots level cannot be overstated: More than 500,000 households in the country cultivate groundnuts. Because of the grant to Jungle Beat, Zambia will be able to export aflatoxin-compliant peanuts for the first time and, consequently, pay better prices to farmers. Providing higher quality seed, teaching growers to prepare their product for market, and providing a facility to purchase groundnuts at competitive prices is expected to improve the education of farmers’ children, access to potable water, and the quality of housing.