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Poor nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa is often linked to a lack of fat in people's diets. Fat
is required to help absorb vitamins, proteins, and other nutrients. Ten of the 20 countries with the lowest per capita visible oil or fat intake in the world are in eastern and southern Africa. Rural people, especially children and nursing mothers, are the most likely to suffer from poor nutrition.

As recently as 1987, 80% of the vegetable oils and fats consumed by the population in Kenya were imported. The intake of edible oils remains low, affecting people's nutrition and health. Production of oilseeds, such as sunflower and sesame, has traditionally been minimal, and rural oil processing has been virtually nonexistent. The rural population's need for oil and animal feed have been met by urban processors at high cost. Structural adjustment programs in many African countries have exacerbated the situation, creating an even greater need for enhanced food security, as well as enterprise and employment opportunities.

Sunflower is used primarily for the production of vegetable oil, preference being given to those hybrids with a high oil content. Sunflower is a crop with some resistance to drought and can grow well in marginal rainfall areas. The crop is also relatively quick maturing and can give good yields when planted later than most crops.

Introducing small-scale processing equipment in rural areas helps reduce the need for cash to buy oil. Local production of cooking oil from sunflowers and other common oilseed crops improves the nutritional levels of both people and livestock by supplying necessary dietary fat. Oil production can also increase farmers' incomes, and create enterprises and employment for farmers and oilseed press operators. In fact, local entrepreneurs involved in small-scale oilseed processing can earn two to three times more gross income, as compared to selling their product to large processing companies or marketing boards.

Researchers and development specialists working with Appropriate Technology International (ATI) have developed a method to introduce small-scale oil expelling enterprises to rural areas in Africa. A typical set up consists of a ram press for extracting the oil, a filtration device, tools for maintenance, and perhaps most importantly, training, support, and information on proper use of the oil and cake (the residue of the seeds after the oil has been squeezed out), and the socioeconomic and nutritional benefits of an oilseed processing enterprise.

The ram press, driven manually by a long handle, consists of a small piston that presses a measured load of oilseeds into a metal cage. The basic design was developed in Tanzania in 1985 by Carl Bielenberg of ATI. The original and improved versions are now widely used there, as well as in other African countries. The press's design has been continuously refined over the years, so that the original, large, two-man machine has evolved into a smaller, less expensive model that can be operated by one woman.

For more information visit:
The International Development Research Centre

Radio Bridge Overseas invites you to Mutoko, the land of the granite domes and mango trees in the Mashonaland district of Zimbabwe. There you will meet some people who are earning a living from making oil out of sunflower seeds for themselves and their community.

Contact in Zimbabwe:

Dr. Ernest Mupunga, Director 
Oilseed Programme
  Appropriate Technology International - East and Southern Africa 
62 Livingston Avenue, Second Floor 
New Haven House 
Tel: (263) 4704813 or 4704815 
Fax: (263) 4704816



"How to make money out of oilseed"
15'00" /

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