Full Belly Project: Open Source Appropriate Technology

“The Full Belly Project 501(c)(3) is a non-profit organization that designs and delivers simple agricultural machines to people in developing countries around the world. This project teaches people how to build hand-operated machines with common materials. Our material of choice for sheller parts is concrete because it is inexpensive, widely available, easy to work with and has a very long service life.

This organization has come a long way from the basic Universal Nut Sheller of Jock Brandis, and over the last three years, this organization remains committed to the idea that machines for sustainable agricultural development are within reach. I remember hearing of youth projects that potentially worked to solve a farm problem, but the efforts of these people were often curtailed by lack of finances. I am very excited that this group is planning to help increase the productivity of the nut shelling business and transform the communities where peanut shelling takes place.

With the introduction of every machine we estimate that it will help feed 1,000 people. Soon we hope to be distributing new technology that will double the capacity of the sheller and may help even more individuals.( Photo Credit: Full Belly Project)

The Full Belly Project works on open source appropriate technology (OSAT) for developing countries. I hear open source and am piqued. So is Sustainablog, Agroblogger
and (drum roll please!) a site for sharing on OSAT by Agricultural Innovations,
Agricultural Innovations proudly hosts Project Permaculture, an online community dedicated to promoting and diffusing the technical details of innovative and sustainable practices in agriculture and natural resource management.

The Full Belly Project project site has a few key points that make it hard to ignore and beg my queries. One is that I am at home with the navigability of the site and the welcoming format.

  • hand-operated

If you have ever lived in a developing country you know that there is hardly any money to buy a gallon of diesel to run a machine. This bespeaks the fact that most machines I grew up observing had a fuel tank somewhere that never got full, and you got sent on errands every other day that involved going to the petrol station for a jerry-can of diesel.

  • inexpensive

If you do not need to pay for this, it brings in more money. If you need to pay for it, I would love to know how much, relative to the income levels of the people in the village, this device costs, and whether there is any way to offset these costs through local rotating credit schemes.

  • widely available

How easily available is this device. Can I go to a hardware store and order it? Are there distributors willing to stock the product and keep the price low. I guess I have to ask these questions somewhere. How are people getting to know about it. Is there an indigenous radio station that it would be cheap to advertise the device or community meetings to introduce the product to the community?

  • easy to work with

I think that the bulk of the easy to work with category deals with language instructions, use by people with disabilities and who trains them. If I had a wish I would dream of a machine that did not involve flying in a team of experts to teach. I believe that the adaptability of the nut sheller is dependent on training of trainers and implementing a system where the trainers can receive remote education by extension.

I think that asking these questions will go a long way towards defining ‘what it is that it is’ (the key) to sustainable agricultural development.