Peanut Lab in Zambia
PIL researchers in Zambia and the U.S. are working to find ways to grow, harvest and process peanuts in order to minimize contamination by aflatoxins, natural chemicals that are produced by mold that can cause stunting, cancer and even death, in humans and livestock.
The interventions being tested include the use of soil amendments such as biochar and gypsum, use of risk indices to better predict potential aflatoxin problems, drying techniques and new options for storage, and effects of processing techniques on aflatoxin contamination in peanut flour, oil, butter or other products.
Researchers at the Zambia Agriculture Research Insitute are using molecular markers to potentially unlock more genetic diversity for groundnut production. Using markers has helped gain insight into advancing genetic breeding for desired groundnut traits. Researchers hope to increase capacities for a vibrant network of peanut breeders in Eastern and Southern Africa and to apply modern techniques for breeding. This all could result in new donor lines for local breeding programs and increase the diversity in the network of peanut breeders.
Zambia, in southern Africa, is a landlocked country of rugged terrain and diverse wildlife. Nearly 18 million people live in the country, which counts mining as its main industry.
Nearly 18 million people live in Zambia, a landlocked country in southern Africa. About 68% of Zambians live below the poverty line – 78% in rural areas where most people are subsistence farmers.
Classified as a humid, subtropical climate, Zambia has two main seasons: the rainy season (November to April) and the dry season (May to October/November). Rainfall averages from 70-120 cm per year (28-47 in). Average daily temperatures range from as high as 28-35° C (82-95° F) to as low as 6-12° C (43-54° F).
A large part of the Zambian diet consists of cereals, particularly maize, followed by starchy roots and small amounts of fruits and vegetables. The food supply is not adequate and food insecurity is widespread.
The dependence on maize also creates a precarious situation when drought occurs.
Raw peanut powder is used in many Zambian foods. For example, Bala lotendela is porridge cooked with peanut powder. Mpunga wotendela is rice cooked with peanut powder.
Peanuts, called groundnuts in Zambia, are the second largest crop in the country, after maize, and account for nearly 9% of the cultivated land in the country.
Groundnuts are produced by about half the rural smallholders in Zambia, approximately 700,000 farmers.
|Table Data Source||(FAOSTAT, 2013)|
Improving the yield Zambian farmers get from their land would help the smallholder farmers’ bottom line and provide nutritious food for malnourished children.
Local Peanut Facts
- After maize, groundnuts are the second largest crop in production and area cultivated.
- Groundnuts account for approximately 8.8 percent of total cultivated land.
- They are eaten raw, or processed into peanut flour or butter.
- About 3.3 percent of household food expenditure goes to buy groundnuts.
- Eighty percent of groundnuts go to household consumption and the rest goes to market.