Perspectives Online

Bullen conducts groundnuts market assessment in Malawi

A woman sells peanuts, rice and dried beans in open air market in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi.

Photo courtesy Gary Bullen

Dr. Gary Bullen of N.C. State University recently returned from a volunteer assignment in Malawi where he conducted a market assessment of peanuts. Bullen is an Extension associate in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Agricultural and Resource Economics Department.  His assignment in Malawi was part of a project with CNFA, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering people and enterprises in the developing world. 

Women gather at a village to meet with Bullen and learn information on peanut production and marketing practices.
Photo courtesy Gary Bullen
On this trip, he shared his knowledge and practical expertise with CNFA’s local staff in Malawi to help them identify bottlenecks for future volunteer projects in the groundnut sector. They went from interviewing farmers in rural areas to visiting processors and market outlets to meeting with government officials.

Bullen believes that peanuts are good agricultural crops because they can be eaten and the surplus sold in various forms. He noted that most groundnut farmers were living “just at the edge, some were eating the crops before they mature,” an indication of poor food security. He suggested several projects that would increase low yields, such as improving soil fertility and introducing certified seeds and basic disease control practices. While some farmers had heard of these techniques, they lacked funding to initiate them.

Gary Bullen (left) meets with a farm store manager. The farm stores buy peanuts to resell as seed peanuts.
Photo courtesy Gary Bullen
Bullen is currently engaged with a group at N. C. State University that seeks to start a project to support Malawi’s peanut industry.

He has gone on volunteer trips to Africa every year for the past 10 years so that he now finds himself at ease with the culture. He says that residents of rural areas around the world share certain commonalities, so “having grown up on a vegetable and livestock farm in a Berea Kentucky, I’ve always felt comfortable approaching rural people in villages across Africa.”

These men are selling peanuts in small village in Malawi. Farmers go to a peanut-buying point and sell 3-10 pounds of peanuts to peanut brokers when money is needed.
Photo courtesy Gary Bullen
Bullen travelled to Malawi under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Farmer-to-Farmer Program, which provides voluntary technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, and agribusinesses in developing and transitional countries to promote sustainable improvements in food processing, production, and marketing. Founded in 1985, CNFA is dedicated to strengthening agricultural markets and empowering entrepreneurs in the developing world. Visit for more information