Left: Some of the trials for devices that didn’t quite work out sit alongside successful products
that include water pumps, the universal nut sheller, and a hand-washing station. Below: The
Saturday work session usually includes a coffee break at Folks Café, just down the street from the
Full Belly Project workshop. Jock Brandis, left, Joseph McCall and the rest of the volunteers head
back to work.
Brandis learned how
to solve problems
with scarce access to
resources while being
raised on a farm in
“I got the mind for
very simple solutions
because you couldn’t
just go to Lowes,
you had to look
around the farm,”
he says. “Good way
to grow up. I highly
peanut, or groundnut as it is called locally, is a critical subsistence
crop for families in West Africa, providing a source of both income
and nutrition. Brandis invented the universal nut sheller (UNS),
a simple machine with two concrete cones and a hand crank, to
decrease time and discomfort while increasing potential for income
and access to nutritious food.
The user pours peanuts into the inner cone. They migrate to an
opening between the two cones. When the user spins the metal han-dle,
the shells are broken and the nut falls into the basket below. The
you had to look around the farm,” he says. “Good way to grow up.
I highly recommend it.”
The farm boy found his way into the movie business, eventually
moving to Wilmington to work with Dino De Laurentiis. But he
began to grow disillusioned with the glitz and glamor and the egos.
He decided to switch gears and work in nonprofit.
“Sometimes, too late in life, you take your father’s advice,” he
says. “I was raised on a farm, and my father started a farm coop-erative
and was always involved with farmers and trying to help
farmers work cooperatively. And when he heard that I was going to
go to Hollywood to hang around in hot tubs with starlets, he tried
to persuade me that maybe it would be more fun to do other stuff.
There was a time that I thought there’s nothing more fun than
hanging around in hot tubs with starlets. I was wrong about that.
… And my mother raised me to be of service to other people. And
the hot tub thing didn’t really work that way.”
Thus, the Full Belly Project was officially born in 2003. And it
all started with peanuts.
During a trip to Mali, Brandis noticed a woman’s bleeding and
calloused hands. They were caused, he was told, by shelling pea-nuts
for the market, an arduous and time-consuming task. The
device can shell about 100 pounds of peanuts in an hour, Coulter
says. The task would typically take a group of women three days to
complete. Brandis’ UNS is now in use in 40 countries.
Earlier this year, Full Belly sent 105 of the peanut shellers to
a farmers’ co-op in Zambia. They also ship plastic molds and
instructions to Zambia and other countries so farmers can pro-duce
and distribute their own shellers, made with locally sourced