Bambara Groundnut
... a Link from the Past and Resource for the Future


The Bambara Groundnut originated in the Sahelian region of present day West Africa. Its name originates from the Bambara tripe who now live mainly in Mali.  Although considerably less popular throughout the world, cultivation of Bambara groundnut has remained common in all of West Africa. Once  labeled as "the poor mans crop" after the introduction of the American peanut, the Bambara Groundnut has all but been forgotten by many except the rural poor. Today, the term groundnut generally refers to the peanut evan though the Bambara variety was common hundreds of years before the peanuts introduction. In recent years Bambara groundnuts have had a resurgence of interest by the scientific community in an attempt to change the reality that they are an underutilized and forgotten crop. It is widely accepted by the research community that bambara groundnuts are a resource that at the present is grossly underutilized by the developing world.

The Bambara groundnut is an extremely adaptable plant. It is well suited for hot, dry, marginal soils and will continue to grow in conditions to dry for Sorghum, maize and peanuts. It is also has the reputation for resisting pests and disease. In many traditional cropping systems it is intercroped with other root and tuber crops.

Books and Links on the topic

Bambara Groundnut ­­ Voandzeia subterranea - A University of Florida web site explaining a brief history of the groundnut as well as other info.

National Academy of Sciences 1997;  TROPICAL LEGUMES Resources for the Future pg. 47-53, Washington D.C.

Articles on the topic

Hepper, F. N. 1963. The bambara groundnut (Voandzeia subterranea) in West Africa. Kew Bulletin 16: 398-407

Karikari, S. K. 1971. Economic importance of the bambara groundnut. World Crops 23:195-196

Harvesting and Preparation

Harvesting the Bambara Groundnut is similar to the peanut. The plant is pulled from the soil exposing the nut which grows beneath the ground. The nuts are then pulled off the plant, dried and stored or eaten raw.

The Bambara Groundnut makes a complete food, containing sufficient quantities of protein, carbohydrate, and fat. Because it contains only 6-12 percent oil, unlike the peanut, it cannot be used as an oil crop. It has been reported however that tribes in the Congo have roasted seeds and pounded them for oil abstraction. If the seeds are eaten fresh or premature the can be consumed with no preparation. However, once the seed has dried out the must be boiled to soften. Dried and roasted Bambara can be used to make flour, soup, and porridge. More recently experiments have made milk out of the Bambara Groundnut. Additional trial s are currently underway.

Research Links

Today their are many research projects throughout the world focused on increasing the utilization of the Bambara Groundnut both in West Africa and the rest of the tropics. Links to some research sites and publications on the web are listed below.

 Proceedings of the workshop on conservation and improvement of Bambara Groundnut; Nov. 14-16 1995,  Harare, Zimbabwe -  137 page document on the proceedings from the workshop

BAMNET International Bambara Groundnut Information System - A great site discussing all sorts of bambara topics including crop improvement, breeding, processing & marketing.

A Global Mapping System for Bambara Groundnut Production - This report describes an approach to assess locations and areal expenses that have potential for the production of  bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea L. Verdc) across the world.

CROP POST HARVEST PROGRAM -  Assessing opportunities for increased utilization of Bambara Groundnut in Southern Africa

Hardier Legumes - Links to the McNight Foundation and their work with the Bambara Groundnut

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