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close this bookSmall Scale Processing of Oilfruits and Oilseeds (GTZ, 1989, 100 p.)
close this folder3. Case Studies
View the document3.1 Shea nut processing by women in Mali
View the document3.2 Hand-operated sunflowerseed processing in Zambia
View the document3.3 Oil palm fruit processing as a women's activity in Togo

3.2 Hand-operated sunflowerseed processing in Zambia


Since 1985, a project has been carried out in Zambia to establish a few fully handoperated sunflowerseed processing units, mainly financed by the government of the Netherlands. The objective of the project is to test the feasibility of hand-operated sunflowerseed processing in Zambia. As quite a few projects are interested in assisting the establishment of such units, a preparatory familiarization programme has already been started by the Technology Development and Advisory Unit (TDAU) of the University of Zambia (UNZA), Lusaka Campus. The equipment will be manufactured locally.

The test-units were established at the Kasisi Mission near Lusaka, at the Kaoma-TBZ Scheme and in the Gweembe Valley.

Organization and management at the unit level

The unit established at the Kasisi Mission is an example of a quite formal enterprise. The unit is an external activity of the Training Centre to whom it is responsible. The Training Centre as a whole is the responsibility of the fathers of the Kasisi Mission. The unit is operated by a group of six school-leavers, headed by a group leader. They work the normal working hours under the supervision of the Centre and are paid as agricultural labourers. The Centre constructed the building and provided the working capital. The equipment has been imported and was financed by outside assistance. Financial management is taken care of by the Mission and the seed is bought in the period just after harvest. All the seed required until the new season is bought before the prices for the new season are announced. The seed is stored at the Centre.

At the Kaoma-TBZ Scheme and in the Gweembe Valley, the units are operated by women's groups. At Kaoma-TBZ, the Kweseka women's group is responsible for the operation of the unit. Guidance is provided by the extension staff of the Ministry of Agriculture who made some working capital available for the procurement of seed.

In the Gweembe Valley, women's groups are responsible as well and are guided by staff of a project by the Gossner Mission, who provides the seed.

The Kasisi unit is well established. Its operation is described below as a typical example of how a well managed unit can operate.

Initially, a processing capacity of 3 bags or 150 kg per day was reached, but oil recovery was very low. This low oil recovery was caused, for example, by:

- improper dehulling and large losses of kernel material during this step,
- improper moistening, by not letting the water be absorbed for one hour,
- improper pressing, by not waiting long enough for all the oil to become released.

In May 1986, refresher training sessions given by the Kasisi mission father responsible for the centre, revealed that proper processing, carried out with discipline and using good seed, gave much better results as follows:

- early planted local seed (composite 75), with an oil content of 35.5 % gave 9.8 kg (or 10.31) oil per bag (19.6 % recovery on seed),
- late planted hybrid seed, with 37.0% oil gave 11.4 kg (or 12.0 1) oil per bag (24 % recovery on seed).

In September 1986, an evaluation showed that these figures were being realized on a continuous basis. A point that still needed special attention, however, was the adjustment of the clearance between the rollers of the roller mill.

The set-up at Kasisi works very well, mainly because of good leadership and management. By refresher sessions, technical problems with the process could be overcome, while maintenance and repair was easily cared for by the mission workshop.

The women's groups at Kaoma TBZ and in the Gweembe valley are lacking leadership and management. Also, refresher sessions are necessary to maintain standards of processing. The organizational system, by which the problems of these groups could be overcome, has still to be worked out.

Process and equipment

The process applied is the “dry process", including:

- dehulling of the seed (decorticating and winnowing)
- size reduction (crushing in a roller mill)
- cooking (moistening and heating)
- pressing (in a hydraulic hand press or in a spindle press).

At Kasisi and Kaoma-TBZ, the units are equipped with a CECOCO decorticator and winnower, and a KIT designed roller mill, heating unit and hydraulic hand press. In the Gweembe Valley, KIT designed dehulling equipment replaces the CECOCO equipment, and the UNATA spindle press replaces the hydraulic press.

To prepare for local production, these types of decorticator and winnower are currently being tested at Kasisi. Their performance and durability appear satisfactory. Unfortunately, the hydraulic press gives problems. The hydraulic system seems to be quite vulnerable and difficult to repair. Since the same pressing results can be obtained with a simple spindle press, which is also easier to manufacture and repair locally, it has been proposed to change to the UNATA spindle press.

At Kasisi, the operators start on a normal working day at 7 a.m., divided into three groups of two. Each group is charged with the processing of one bag (or 50 kg) sunflowerseed. The group that has finished the day before with crushing starts with mixing-in the water. After one hour they start heating, followed by pressing. (Between heating and pressing, the mass is kept hot in closed buckets in a kind of a hay-box.) After pressing, this group takes up decorticating followed by crushing to prepare the material for the next day. Another group starts with crushing followed by mixing in water, then heating and pressing. After pressing, they start decorticating to prepare for the next day. The third group starts with decorticating, followed by crushing, mixing in the water, heating and pressing. A complete cycle for 50 kg requires about 6 effective working hours. Some more time is required for preparatory work, rest to recover from heavy manual work and maintenance. The group takes a break at noon. At 2 p.m. the work is resumed until 5 p.m.

At Kaoma-TBZ, the women, when they were still motivated, worked~four days a week with ten persons, processing in three groups about 25 kg seed per group per day. Later on, the women's groups became smaller, and late 1986 they processed only 50 kg seed per day, two days a week.

Results and experience

The process was introduced at Kasisi in November 1985. The group was trained for one week. Due to problems of getting a license the production could not start before January 1986. Between January and mid-April the group worked quite independently and with little supervision. In total 11.4 tons of seed were processed and 16651 sunfloweroil sold. That equals a net production of 7.3 1 of oil per 50 kg bag of seed.


From January to April 1986, the financial results of the Kasisi unit were disappointing, as the income from oil could only cover rawmaterials and wages and no other costs. This was due to:

- low oil recovery (only 7.31 per bag of 50 kg)
- low production capacity at the beginning (below I SO kg per day)
- increased wages (an increase of about 50 %)
- low oil price (K 5.00 per 1, because subsidized oil flooded the market).

For the season 1986/87, the Mission had purchased the required 30 tons of sunflowerseed of good quality at the official price (K 42 per 50 kg bag) just in time, before the new producer prices (of 70 K per 50 kg bag) had been announced. A reasonable daily budget could therefore be made (see below).

The main problem for Kasisi will remain the difficult economic situation in the country, with steeply rising prices for sunflower seed to compensate for rising production costs, and heavily subsidized relatively constant prices of vegetable oil.

Because of the high sunflowerseed prices and the low oil prices, together with their low productivity, oil production in the 1986/87 season seems not to be remunerative enough for the women of the Kweseka group at Kaoma-TBZ. As long as this situation continues, not much production can be expected at Kaoma-TBZ. In the Gweembe Valley, sunflower seed is a little cheaper and oil a little more expensive, which makes oil production more remunerative. It is not yet known if this margin is interesting enough for the women concerned to take up oilseed processing on a continuous basis.

Expenses per day:

3 bags sunflowerseed @ K 42/bag


wages for 6 agricultural labourers


other costs


amortization equipment @ K 10/bag


amortization building @K 10/day




Income per day:

30 l oil at K 7 per I (just below price of subsidized oil, September 1986)


cake (used as animal feed by the mission)


Net Cash Income per day


Alternative possibilities

Alternatives for fully hand-operated sunflowerseed processing in Zambia are motorized expellers, as presented in Chapter 2. In Chapter 4, the feasibility of a locally manufactured hand-operated system is compared with the feasibility of alternative motorized expeller systems.

The price of a locally manufactured handoperated system (basis September 1986) is estimated at K 20 000. At that time, 1 K was equivalent to 0.17 US $.