What would you do if you were on your own, with six kids to care for, and fighting for your life?

If you’re like Joyce, you get to work.

A few years ago, Joyce was in bad shape. Like 10% of Malawians, Joyce had HIV. Her weight had dropped to 85 pounds and no one expected her to live much longer. But she was a fighter. Joyce and others with HIV in her community began growing peanuts. They got their hands on a CTI grinder and started making peanut butter. Before long, everything changed.

Eating peanut butter helped Joyce and her friends gain weight. With better nutrition, their HIV medication started to kick in. Now Joyce is strong, healthy, and is selling peanut butter to help put her kids through school.

“Since this grinder was introduced to me, I have seen a big change in my health. Even my children cannot believe how much my health has changed,” said Joyce. "People can’t believe that I have HIV.” ” 

This project was made possible by the suport of Earthen Vessels, click here to learn more. 

nutritionMalawi is one of the most malnourished countries in the world. In this small southeast African country, about the size of Ohio, malnutrition typically starts during childhood as a result of micronutrient deficiencies, a diet comprised of mostly cereals, and food shortages. Chronic malnutrition causes stunting in children, and those who survive it often deal with lifelong health and cognitive development challenges. The lasting effects of undernutrition impacts 60% of Malawi’s adults and cost the economy millions of dollars each year.

But that’s only a part of Malawi’s story. In recent years, Malawi has made major strides in reducing child mortality (down 80% since 1990) and the prevalence of HIV. Malawi is nicknamed “the warm heart of Africa” and it’s full of incredibly resilient communities working together to improve life for everyone. And it’s paying off.

At CTI, we’re equipping communities with tools that will help them produce more peanuts—one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. And we’re partnering with farmer co-ops and researchers in Malawi so families have nutritious, high-yielding seed varieties. Together, and with the support of our donors, we are helping communities boost their yields and diversify their diets so families are healthier and kids can look forward to brighter futures.

5 Things You Should Know about Child Nutrition in Malawi 

1) 23% percent of all child mortality cases in Malawi are associated with undernutrition

2) Today, 1.4 million or almost half of the children in Malawi are stunted

3) 66% of the adult population engaged in manual activities were stunted as children, representing an annual loss of US$ 67 million

4) Of all school year repetitions, 18 percent are associated with stunting

5) The total annual costs associated with child undernutrition are estimated at US$ 597 million, equivalent to 10.3% of GDP

Aflatoxins are the most toxic naturally occurring carcinogens known.

Aflatoxins are poisonous, cancer-causing chemicals that develop from mold and fungus, often as a result of improper storage and mishandled food. In many parts of Africa, aflatoxin contamination poses a serious risk to the health of rural communities. It’s also a major barrier to their ability to market their crops and earn a profit. 

Engineers at CTI are working in partnership with crop researchers at ICRISAT to develop a testing kit to help farmers and researchers identify aflatoxin in peanuts. ICRISAT has created a simple strip test that develops an easy to read black line to indicate if the peanuts are safe to eat.  CTI is researching simple, low cost technologies that can be adapted to chop the peanuts into a suitable sample size for testing. With a low-cost, field- testing kit, farmers can identify aflatoxin contamination at its source, in minutes, and mitigate a major threat to rural health and incomes.

milletstalks

With food trends, what’s old has become new again. Ancient grains like quinoa, farro, and freekeh have all had their turns in the spotlight. Many of these foods have been around for millennia, sustaining generation after generation. Now, they’re catching on around the world.

Here, three traditional foods gaining new popularity and how CTI is making them more accessible.

1. Millet

While new to American diets, this ancient grain has been around for over 7,500 years. Originating in north China, millet is now a dietary staple for over 90 million people across Africa and Asia.

Millet holds an obvious appeal. Able to grow in Africa’s most famine-prone regions, millet produces reliable yields in hot, dry climates with poor soil quality. Some varieties of pearl millet can withstand temperatures as high as 147 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also a nutritious grain—rich in iron, easily digestible protein, and three times the calcium as milk.

In Senegal, pearl millet is primarily produced at the subsistence level and hand-processed by women and girls. Though pearl millet is a major source of nutrition for the rural poor, it is very labor-intensive to harvest and process—something CTI is working to change. This fall, we’re distributing 150 threshers to farmers’ organizations across Senegal, with the potential to impact tens of thousands of people.

2. Peanuts

Did you know that peanuts are as rich in antioxidants as most berries? One of the most nutritious foods on the planet, peanuts are also high in protein and healthy fats. Like millet, peanuts grow well in hot, dry climates. And the plant is hailed for its nitrogen-fixing properties, which improve soil quality.

While the peanut originated in South America, today nearly 92 percent of the world’s peanuts are produced in Asia and Africa. Because of the plant’s high nutrient content and increasing global demand, African countries like Malawi see peanuts as a growing priority. An agricultural country, Malawi historically relied on tobacco as its top export crop. With the fall of tobacco, the government is embracing peanuts as a valuable alternative—encouraging farmers to increase peanut production through seed subsidies and other initiatives.

Across Africa, peanuts are seen as a women’s crop. This means that women carry out the majority of the harvesting and processing of the nuts, which is both time-consuming and difficult. CTI’s peanut tools help women harvest and process more nuts, faster. Because it is easier to grow more peanuts, farmers are able to sell more of their crop at market—increasing their income in the process.

3. Moringa

Moringa has risen in popularity as a nutritional superstar, joining the ranks of up-and-coming superfoods like goji berries, acai, and spirulina. With “seven times the amount of Vitamin C of oranges and three times as much potassium as bananas,” it’s easy to see why. Native to India, Pakistan, and Nepal, Moringa has been used for centuries to treat and prevent a multitude of diseases—from acne to diabetes. Because of its ability to thrive in harsh conditions Moringa is now grown around the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, to combat malnutrition.

Typically, the leaves are eaten raw or sautéed with food. The leaves can also be ground into a powder, which can be used as a supplement. In Haiti, a woman named Sonja started a business selling Moringa powder. Sonja dries the nutrient-rich leaves in a solar dryer and grinds the dried leaves into powder using a CTI grinder. She sells the powder to a local nutrition clinic, where nurses distribute it to pregnant and nursing mothers and malnourished children.

Clinic staff reported that “the number of severe malnutrition cases has dropped from 130 per day to less than 4 [cases] in the community.”

In all three examples, these foods have stood the test of time. CTI is dedicated to working with indigenous crops that are highly nutritious, easy to grow, and able to thrive in our changing climate.

If you're interested in supporting that work, you can donate here.

AngelaKuan profile“My Life has been difficult, but all the work I have done for my community has been worth it,” says 71-year-old Angela Kuan. This woman has led numerous projects that have built schools, roads, and water systems in Siares, a rural community in the mountains of Nicaragua.

Her latest project? Guaranteeing that every family in her village is drinking clean, safe water.

Angela is the Coordinator of her village’s Water and Sanitation Committee. She mobilized her community to purchase CTI’s Water Chlorinator in an effort to prevent the diarrhea and disease that frequently occurred from drinking untreated water. This inexpensive system attaches to a village water tank and uses chlorine tablets to disinfect an entire community’s drinking water source.

Angela and her neighbors shared the $200 (USD) cost of purchasing the chlorinator, and CTI staff trained Angela and other community volunteers to assemble and operate the system. Families in the community chip in a few cents each month to buy new chlorine tablets, and the system is regularly maintained by the local Water and Sanitation Committee.

Angela’s community of 1,500 now has clean drinking water.

What does this mean for Siares? Angela explains, “Before the chlorinator, you would see up to 2 children being buried because of diarrhea [each year]. Now the chlorinator has decreased sickness in our community, it has changed the lives of our people. I am happy to see the impact, children are being raised in a better environment.”AngelaKuan interview

Angela stresses that this success wouldn’t be possible without the support of CTI. She explains that prior to installing CTI’s Chlorinator, Siares tried other water treatment systems—but none of them stuck. Unlike the CTI Chlorinator, other technologies frequently rely on power sources that aren’t practical in rural communities, and they did not constantly clean the water. Because of its simplicity and effectiveness, rural villages can maintain and operate CTI’s Chlorinator with ease—which explains why CTI’s clean water project in Siares has thrived where others failed.

“I will die satisfied with the work I have done,” Angela stated proudly, “It has been an honor to do what I have done for my community,”

Angela’s passion and generosity have improved the lives of hundreds of men, women, and children in her village. And thanks to dedicated community members and support from CTI donors, more than 400,000 people across Nicaragua are drinking clean safe, water.


AdrianDiaz


Adrian Diaz graduated from Northland College in May 2016. He double majored in Sustainable Community Development and Sociology with a Social Justice Emphasis. After finishing his internship with CTI, Adrian plans on applying to law school in the Twin Cities area, and becoming a human rights or immigration attorney.

 

IMG 5467

What does manufacturing have to do with hunger? The answer isn’t obvious at first glance. But at a family-run manufacturing company in the city of Thies (pronounced chess), we’re seeing the connection firsthand.

Senegal-based Pene et Fils (pronounced pen ay fees) is a small neighborhood shop managed by Mamadou Pene and his son, Saliou. Their focus is on building agricultural machines for processing cereals, including millet grinders, dehullers, and planters.

Their latest project? Producing 150 threshers for CTI—our largest order yet.

CTI first began working with P&F in 2014. Since then, our US-based engineers have been collaborating with P&F to figure out how to make our tools in-country. Now, P&F is working tirelessly to manufacture our first bulk order in Senegal.

So what does manufacturing have to do with hunger?

At CTI, we pride ourselves on collaborating with farmers throughout the design process. To sustainably tackle hunger on the other side of the world, it is just as important to work with local manufacturers.

Too often, technologies are dumped in communities without the necessary resources or knowledge for repairs. By partnering with P&F, we are building local expertise—a critical step towards sustainability. P&F are not only manufacturers. They are able to provide spare parts and can service tools if they break down in the field. They are helping to build distribution networks, to help get the tools into the hands of farmers. And by eliminating expensive shipping costs, local manufacturing also ensures that donors’ dollars go directly towards helping farmers and their communities.

Meanwhile, here in Minnesota, CTI is collaborating with Bühler’s Apprenticeship Academy. Using the drawings from P&F, the apprentices are assembling a replica of the thresher—so our engineers can test and refine the technology parallel to our partners in Senegal.

The 150 threshers made by P&F will be distributed by farmers’ organizations across Senegal, with the potential to impact tens of thousands of people. By working with P&F, we are manufacturing a path towards zero hunger—one thresher at a time.

WomensPlatform

Who makes sure the fridge is fully stocked? Who packs the kids’ lunch for school? Who does most of the cooking? Around the world, women are still doing the bulk of food prep. Nowhere is this more apparent than sub-Saharan Africa, where women contribute up to 80 percent of food production. This work is primarily done by hand—a process both laborious and time-consuming.

Women in countries like Senegal have limited access to tools that could reduce their labor and improve their productivity.

These women are in charge of food preparation for their families and communities. But the time- and labor-saving technologies women need are rarely developed with their input. Furthermore, women lack access to finances and other resources that would help them access new technologies.

To give women a seat at the table, CTI organized a national forum of women farmer leaders in Dakar, Senegal. The forum, which took place in August 2015, was attended by women leaders from across the country, investors, manufacturers, and government officials. Attendees discussed common challenges for women farmers, and opportunities for women to benefit from appropriate tools and training.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Can peanut farmers crack global poverty?

Written by

Groundnut stripper

To Americans, peanuts are a simple food—a snack staple in ballparks and backpacks alike. But for millions of farmers in Malawi, this humble legume may offer a path out of poverty. 

One of the most nutritious foods on the planet, peanuts are rich in protein and healthy fats. They’re also a valuable crop that grows well in Malawi’s hot, dry climate.

Malawi’s small farmers are responsible for 93 percent of the country’s peanut production. But they’re not profiting. Women harvest and process their nuts by hand—work that is exhausting and time-consuming. And when farmers try to sell their harvest, they’re often taken advantage of by vendors who buy low and sell high. So while the farmers are doing the hard work, vendors are getting the profits.

New technologies are changing the game for Malawi’s peanut farmers.

CTI has developed a suite of tools to help farmers harvest and process more peanuts, faster. The tools were designed with input from hundreds of small farmers, who praised them for their ability to shell high-quality nuts. Farmers were confident the tools would help them grow and sell more peanuts—and often asked to buy the prototypes on the spot. Now CTI is working with local manufacturers to get farmers these tools in time for the May harvest.

We’re on a mission to make sure farmers can get their hands on the tools, sell their nuts at a fair price, and profit.

Over the next two years, we’re partnering with farmers’ organizations across Malawi—including NASFAM, the largest smallholder farmer group in the country. Farmers’ groups like NASFAM give farmers access to resources like new technologies, training, and good seed. By working in a group to sell their crops, farmers’ organizations can also help their members get better prices at market.With this partnership, farmers' organizations can now offer CTI's peanut tools to their members—giving farmers the support they need to reap the full benefits of their labor.

CTI Executive Director Alexandra Spieldoch was recently in Malawi to kick off the McKnight-supported project. While there, she met with the President of the Republic of Malawi, Peter Mutharika, to share more about our work.

President Mutharika was supportive of the program, as peanuts are a growing priority for the Malawi government. An agricultural country, Malawi has historically relied on tobacco as its top export crop. With the fall of tobacco, the government is embracing peanuts as a valuable alternative—encouraging farmers to increase their peanut production through seed subsidies and other initiatives.

But most peanut farmers aren’t thinking about export opportunities or how to solve global food insecurity. Instead, they’re wondering if this season’s harvest will be enough to eat and sell. While developing our tools, we interviewed over 200 small farmers in Malawi. They told us that access to the tools would help them increase their incomes, boost nutrition, and improve their quality of life. 97 percent of farmers said they would plant more peanuts if the nuts were easier to harvest and process. Now, we can make easier harvesting and processing a reality.

Noah blog 1

After I had the privilege of interning with CTI last summer, I spent the 2015 fall semester studying international development in Senegal—where CTI's work has a profound impact. I saw this firsthand when I lived in Tattaguine, a small village 100 km southeast of Senegal's capital, Dakar.

In Tattaguine, the day's work began before sunrise, preparing livestock for pasture and breakfast for the family. Later, the women would begin preparation for the family's lunch and dinner—pounding several stalks of millet using the traditional mortar and pestle. The women would occasionally pause to sift through the grains. After meals, they cracked bowl after bowl of the family's peanut crop by hand.

Millet and peanuts are just two of the many crops grown by smallholding farmers in the region. Many families have their own small farms where they grow sorghum, beans, maize, and sometimes peppers and watermelons. My host family, the Ngom's, do the same: they rely on their crops for food and sell what is left.

Despite growing their own food, the Ngom's remain food insecure. This means that the family of 15 lacks nutritious choices, sometimes going without a meal. I spent my summer internship with CTI researching this phenomenon. At its core, hunger is often an economic problem where supply and demand interact—or in this case, fail to act—to provide enough nutritious food to all people. The supply side argument holds that production fails to meet the food needs of populations. The demand side argument claims the opposite: the failure to get enough food comes from high prices or inaccessibility at the market and a lack of income.

This has real consequences. To provide even an insufficient amount of food for her family, my host mother spent her entire afternoon preparing couscous for dinner. My host sisters would help out as well, sometimes needing to put off their homework to pound the millet. To have enough money for food, clothing, and other expenses, my host sisters' husbands worked miles away from home. They are only able to visit once per month at most.

Noah blog 2

A related phenomenon is the mechanization of agriculture, which is any process by which food production and processing is done with the help of machines. Mechanization lessens workloads, boosts productivity, and permits faster, higher-quality, and larger-scale production and processing. More food is produced and kept out of harm's way, which increases supply. Sales from this increased supply, and improved capacity to sell throughout the year, increase incomes to bolster the demand side. Further, spillover effects of mechanization include decreasing rates of fertility and child labor, increasing market integration, employment, and resources and power for women.

This is what CTI does in Senegal. They are tackling hunger, one thresher at a time. Obstacles persist due to the remoteness of some communities, lack of education and knowledge, and the issue of financing so many machines (for CTI) and buying them (for some farmers), but the CTI model escapes some common pitfalls. For one thing, its manual machines are cheaper for farmers than other larger, bulkier options and forgo the use of expensive and unsustainable fossil fuels.

CTI hopes to extend its work with extension agencies like SAPPAT, my host organization in Tattaguine, to further the impact of its program in Senegal and eliminate hunger among Senegalese families. I am privileged first to have worked for two incredible organizations on two continents and second to connect both my experiences and the organizations' work in such tangible ways. Much work remains, but progress is surely being made, from the offices of St. Paul to the millet fields of the Sahel.

Noah headshot


Noah Nieting studies economics, African studies, and international development at Macalester College where he also runs the student-led international development group. He can be contacted at nnieting@macalester.edu.