Thursday, 15 October 2009

Compatible Technology is Awarded McKnight Grant

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Malnutrition is widespread in Malawi and Tanzania, particularly among children under five whose diet is deficient in protein, oils and micronutrients. The need is urgent to develop and harvest improved, nutritious foods using locally available crops such as groundnuts (commonly called peanuts). Increased groundnut production can significantly improve individual nutrition as well as economic security.

In September, Compatible Technology International was awarded a Grant from the McKnight Foundation to enhance child nutrition using groundnuts in rural Malawi and Tanzania. CTI will lead the four-year, $673,000 project, which is a partnership with Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

“This project is essentially about collaborating with these farm families about the crops growing naturally in their environments,” said CTI’s vice president of operations, Bert Rivers. “This collaboration is important, not only to provide additional nutrition to their families, but to also provide increased revenue for their households to improve their livelihood. We are also being educated by the farmers about the realities of their living conditions and farming systems.”

The project will include 3 primary goals:

1)       To develop a nutritious food for post-weaning children
2)       To determine best practices for processing groundnuts
3)       To establish capacity in-country

In the first component of the project, CTI, its partners, and food scientists, will research and develop a nutritional foodstuff for young children using groundnuts and other local staple crops.

Compatible Technology International’s post-harvest processing technology and experience will be instrumental for the second component of the project, in which CTI will help determine the best practices for processing groundnuts in rural Tanzania and Malawi. An integral part of this project will be determining the tools and practices individual farmers need to get the maximum value from their crops.

A fundamental aspect of CTI’s mission is to give people the tools they need to feed and support themselves. The final component of the project incorporates this principle and is essential to the project’s ultimate success. CTI and its partners will be working over the next four years to ensure that they leave behind the tools necessary for local communities to continue to benefit from the project.

CTI volunteer and Technical Advisory Council Member, Steve Clarke inspects the papayas in Tanzania

In late September, CTI volunteer, Steve Clarke and Vice President of Operations, Bert Rivers traveled to Tanzania to kick off the McKnight project. During their trip, they had the opportunity to travel to Morogoro, the home campus of Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA). While at SUA, the CTI travelers were able to meet first hand some more of their collaborators in the project. These face to face meetings gave them the opportunity to put into place some concrete action plans for the project. While in Morogoro they made contact with local fabricators who might become the agents of our capacity building activities in Tanzania.

In the city of Bagamoyo, Bert and Steve met for McKnight’s Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP) for Southern Africa Annual Grantee Meeting. At the gathering, in addition to each Grantee presenting the status report for their project, attendees were introduced to the needs of individual farmers through their participation in the conference’s discussions. McKnight also took the opportunity to present a powerful team of guest speakers who spoke on improving the quality and the depth of the research being conducted by the Grantees.

While all these researchers were present, Bert and Steve had the opportunity to tell CTI’s story, both publically and in one-on-one sessions. It was during these sessions that Steve and Bert believe that CTI made a major impact upon the attendees. They were able to show the track record that CTI has established over the years and the value of CTI technologies for farmers and villagers. Many of the attendees are hungry for what CTI can bring to their communities.

CTI’s mission compels us to continuously look for opportunities to disseminate our knowledge of technology that can help improve lives in places where it may have the greatest impact. A recent collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB), to develop the next generation of professionals engaged in rural development in India and around the world, is doing just that.  This collaboration has established a pilot scholarship program for a graduate student in integrated rural development at CTARA (Center For Technology Alternatives for Rural Development) at IITB. Funded in part by a generous donation from a long-time CTI Volunteer and former board member, the first Fellow, Mr. Ninad Jagdish (letter of acceptance below), has been selected, and starts his coursework this fall.  Additional funding is being sought through foundation channels.

This program will supplement current methods of disseminating our technology solutions by investing in people. The broad curriculum includes courses in engineering, economics and cultural aspects of rural development and significant time in the field with rural needs assessment and the development of appropriate solutions.

By engaging with these students during this period CTI expects to develop a lifelong relationship with emerging leaders in rural development who will be fully aware of CTI capabilities and will include these technology solutions in their tool-kit. CTI will also get a first hand look at the needs in the rural areas in and around Mumbai.

In this initial phase of the program our goal is to have five trained “CTI Fellows” in India with a Masters in Technology (M.Tech.) in rural development from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. The program will be evaluated annually and a report will be submitted to CTI Executive Director and the Board. If the program is successful in increasing CTI’s impact in the Western region of India it will be considered for expansion in other regions of India and the rest of the world.

 Dear CTI,
I am honoured to have been selected for the CTI-IITB fellowship. The provisions of the fellowship will indeed support me during this Master’s programme in Technology and Development. I am thus grateful.
Through the Master’s programme, I intend to gain a better understanding of the problems that the world faces and to develop the ability to think of relevant interventions that may help solve these problems. Fundamentally, I hope to refine my perspective of the world and make it more ‘realistic’.
As providers of this fellowship, you may be interested in knowing who exactly it is that you are funding. A brief description thus follows.
I graduated as a Mechanical Engineer in 2008 from Osmania University in Hyderabad, India. At that point of time, my interests were more toward flight, aerodynamics and product design rather than issues related with development. After graduating I pursued aero-modeling. I learnt much about flight during that time but was somehow still searching for something more ‘meaningful’. It was then that I was found by a stray dog that had been hit by a car. A month of trying to help it live followed. It ended sadly and pushed me to think seriously of animal welfare. I volunteered at The Blue Cross in Hyderabad. Questions of well being, quality of life and harmonious/sustainable living flooded my mind. I then began working for Engineers Without Borders (EWB)-India. There, I helped develop improved designs of equipment used for biomass briquetting. All these events ultimately led me to seek out and apply for this programme. 
I thank you once more for providing this fellowship and look forward to a healthy relationship with CTI. 
Ninad Jagdish

Saturday, 01 August 2009

Wooden Grinder Nears Market

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Volunteer LeAnn Taylor, practicing the Wood Grinder assembly

Over the past year we have had several parties express an interest in our wooden grinder. In each case we have been able to send to them our engineering drawings of the grinder. In all cases, these drawing have not been able to fill the needs of those interested in this break-through technology. For some, the electronic transfer has not been successful; for others, a lack of exposure to three dimensional  presentations was not understood; for still others, the use of “English units” was an impediment.

Thanks to the outstanding work of Brigette Blesi, all of these problems have been overcome. Brigette has taken an existing wooden grinder and broken it (not literally) down into its individual components. A template was then made for each of the seventeen wooden parts with dimensions given in both Metric and English units. Brigette then identified each of the 97 fasteners, by number, and researched the closest metric part size that corresponded so as to complete the Bill of Materials.

The next step was for Brigette to establish the step by step assembly procedure. Anyone who has ever had “nice” things to say about assembly instructions now can claim that they know someone who has written one of these procedures. Every piece of wood, every fastener, every metal part s could be translated into action????

TaDa!!! Enter our guinea pig…otherwise known to her friends as LeAnn Taylor. LeAnn will be taking a wooden grinder down to El Salvador this month to determine if the wooden technology will expand our impact with the bakers of El Salvador. LeAnn used Brigette’s instructions and her part identification techniques to reassemble the grinder, not once, but twic e. Well done LeAnn! Now she can teach our colleagues in El Salvador how to make a wooden grinder.

Major kudos to Brigette for all this exacting and accurate work! We are one step closer to getting our wooden grinder accepted as an alternative, cheaper and more sustainable technology.

In July, CTI had the pleasure of hosting a visitor from Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), one of Africa’s leading agricultural schools. Dr. Yasinta Muzanila, Senior Lecturer and Dean of Faculty of Science, traveled to CTI headquarters to collaborate on a McKnight grant proposal focusing on Southern Africa. 

During her visit, Yasinta described the significant impact she could see CTI technology having on the lives of those in rural Tanzania and Malawi: 

“I’m looking forward to working with CTI and on the project…We think CTI technology will be good to assist rural people to try to reduce the workload-especially on the women. The women back home do most of the work; they use primitive ways of processing like mortar and pestle. They work for five hours to get enough flour for food. If they have a grinder, they might have more time for other activities.”

Yasinta is from Morogoro, a college town of some 220,000 residents and the center of agriculture in the region. As Yasinta describes it, daily life in Morogoro does not sound too far from that of a typical American city. At the end of the work day, many Tanzanians participate in a routine that echoes the American “happy hour” tradition. At about 3:30 in the afternoon, when the workday has ended (work typically starts at 7:30 am), workers often gather at the bar for beer and roasted meat, called Nyama Choma. On the weekend, young people typically meet at centers of discourse or attend concerts. Music is an important part of the culture of Morogoro. The city has generated several influential jazz musicians and its strong musical tradition continues to this day. 

During Yasinta’s first visit to the United States, CTI staff and volunteers did their best to welcome her with a bit of the famous “Minnesota nice”. CTI staff and Yasinta were treated to tours by General Mills and the University of Minnesota’s Department of Food Sciences and Nutrition. On her last day with CTI, when asked of her impression of Americans, Yasinta said, “The people are very good. Everyone I’ve met here is very friendly. I don’t feel homesick. Everyone is very friendly and everyone takes good care of me.”  By the end of Yasinta’s trip, there was a consensus among the CTI community: regardless McKnight’s final decision, CTI’s collaboration with Sokoine University has yielded a valuable partnership and a strong friendship.

In early 2002, the Nicaraguan government contacted CTI and asked us to investigate the possibility of correcting the badly contaminated water systems in the rural areas of that country.  CTI responded by engaging Americas Committee volunteers Fred Jacob (noted community organizer with a Nicaraguan NGO) and Charles Taflin (Senior Engineer with the Minneapolis Water Department) to design and implement a water disinfection system.  Thus, the CTI 8 water chlorinator was created.

The chlorinator was initially installed in about 30 communities in Nicaragua under the direct supervision of Nicaraguan Water Ministry personnel.  This simple chlorinator allows the people and communities where it is installed to have access to disinfected drinking water for pennies per day.  Unfortunately, due to political issues in Nicaragua, the dissolution of the Nicaraguan Water Ministry, and challenges securing appropriate chlorine tablets, the project has been less active than desirable the last few years.

However, in recent months, the National Health Ministry has been given jurisdiction over rural water and has been in communication with CTI to reinstate the water chlorinator program.  That, along with a recent breakthrough in obtaining the proper chlorine tablets, prompted Fred Jacob to visit Nicaragua last month where he checked on the chlorinators that had been installed by CTI a few years ago.  What he found was encouraging!  Fred reports, “It was heartwarming to see that most of the chlorinators and water systems were in acceptable to wonderful condition!”

CTI is actively forging ahead with this project and is working towards the goal of making 50 chlorinators fully operational within 90 days!

CTI was invited to attend an award ceremony in Chicago to recognize the winner of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge grant (MIT) as well as the 33 finalists, which included CTI.

Roger, CTI Executive Director, attended the event on CTI’s behalf and summarized CTI’s submission, “CTI had submitted a project from the Asia Committee which addressed developing a water harvesting model to provide both a reliable supply of water for crop irrigation and for resale as drinking water to surrounding communities in Tamil Nadu, India.  This project, which was initiated by Ram Krishnan, the Chair elect of the CTI Asia Committee, has scope for replication in other countries of Asia and Africa; the project showed a payback on the initial investment ($100,000) in technology in two years.  The project anticipates locating solar powered pumps capable of pumping harvested water into storage tanks for subsequent chlorination and distribution through drip feed irrigation systems.”

The BFI Challenge attracted 6,000 entries from 25 countries and some 50 universities worldwide, including MIT, Stanford and CalTech, many of which had representatives at the ceremony.  It was apparent that this is considered a prestigious and competitive technological award within the academic community, and it is a testament to CTI’s technologies that we were listed amongst the top six entries in the judgment of the jurors.

Congratulations to Ram Krishnan, to Anne-Marie Hendrickson who crafted our submission, and to the Asia Committee (Steve and Nancy Laible).

(Filled with rainwater)

(Empty pond)

Monday, 01 June 2009

“CTI in Haiti” Video is Online!

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We’re excited to announce that a new video covering CTI’s partnership with Meds and Food for Kids in Haiti is online!

Spare six minutes for this one; you won’t regret it. View the video here! 


CTI volunteers Ed Galle and Dick Fulmer recently returned from a trip to Ghana and Liberia where they worked with several collaborators to conduct extensive grinder training for 25 trainers on the use of the Omega VI (photo), demonstrate the processing of moringa leaf powder and peanut butter, and present CTI’s hand-held corn sheller and the wooden grinder.

President of the Moringa Association of Ghana and friend of CTI, Mozart Adevu, worked with Dick and Ed while they were in Africa, and attested to the quality of the Omega VI for moringa production in his recent newsletter.

“Ed Galle and Dick Fulmer, volunteers of CTI, joined me to travel to Liberia between March 28 and April 4. We conducted 6 demonstrations in 6 separate locations in two Counties, Nimba and Montserrado for over 260 farmers. The enthusiasm during the demonstrations was overwhelming and the farmers and communities indicated the opportunity as a great blessing for them. The situation during some demonstrations are likened to Acts 3:8 as the farmers jumped with joy and praised God with the excitement of the “miracle” of the new possibility for them to mill their products at such a fast rate. They considered this as great “healing” of their situation and prayed to God to sustain the lives of those who help them in such “wondrous” ways. We made the demonstration sessions very practical and participatory. The farmers, especially women, took turns to try their hands on the Omega VI grinder and it was great fun! When some quantity of powder was produced, the participants applauded their efforts and were amazed at the fine and smooth nature of final product…

I will also share these experiences with other countries during my trips and hopefully [the United Methodist Committee on Relief] and CTI could begin a good collaboration to explore the possibility of support for food processing in other countries too.”

Long-time CTI volunteer Kathleen Graham was invited by the Nairobi-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) to bring her Ewing Grinder Pilot Project to farmers in far western Kenya.  Excited about the opportunity to test the Ewing III grinder in Kenya and with a variety of crops, Kathleen traveled to Homa Bay on the shores of Lake Victoria with six grinders provided by the Graham Service Fund.  There, she worked with ICRISAT’s collaborator from the Kenya Ministry of Research, Mrs. Nasambu Okoko, a manager of the Kisii branch of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) to conduct a grinder training workshop.  Participants in this two-day workshop included representatives from farmers’ cooperatives in neighboring districts and local agents of the Ministry of Agriculture.

CTI’s goals in this Pilot Project are been to discover the acceptability of the Ewing III grinder among Kenyan farmers who are seeking to add value to their crops, and to learn whether this grinder is useful in processing the crops of far Western Kenya: millet, sorghum, soybeans, cow peas, and “green gram” (which looks like a small mung bean).  Mrs. Okoko noted that the introduction of ground nuts (peanuts) to this area is recent, and the participants were curious and enthusiastic about the production of nut paste, which is the Ewing grinder’s most common use.  While nut paste is a staple in Uganda and Southern Sudan, it is a new product in much of rural Kenya.  The participants reported they had recently seen nut paste introduced in local markets and were keen to add it to their own income-generating activities.

The three primary objectives of the workshop, held at the Homa Bay Agricultural Training Center, were to make all workshop participants Ewing grinder “experts,” to prepare all workshop participants to comfortably train others to use the grinder, and to teach workshop participants who received a grinder how to incorporate it into their communities for laborsaving and/or income generating purposes.   All participants demonstrated proficiency at basic grinder assembly, processing several crops, disassembly and cleaning the machine.

After the training, each participant applied for the six grinders to be deployed to their respective communities.  Each was asked to speak on behalf of their proposal, and Mrs. Okoko assisted Kathleen in determining grinder placements because all requests could not be accommodated.  Each group that received a grinder agreed to provide Mrs. Okoko with feedback regarding the grinder’s use and acceptability.  At the end of one year, groups who have done so will have the option to buy the grinder at a reduced price.

In addition to grinder training, Kathleen instructed participants on some basics of food processing, nutrition, hygiene, and record keeping.

Between late 2007 and early 2008, CTI assisted a feeding program of the World Harvest Mission in Bundibugyo, Uganda. This program was originally designed to improve the nutrition of young ones (age 6 – 59 months) at the above location. This mission location, under the supervision of a trained nutritionist from East Carolina University and colleagues from the University of North Carolina, began using our Omega VI grinders to prepare a ready-to-use (RUF) food supplement. When a rapid increase in the children’s weight and health wasobserved, a more detailed study was undertaken.

The high cost
 of imported ready to use therapeutic food (RUTF) prompted attention to the use of a more affordable RUF derived from local food sources. These sources provide micronutrients and do not rely on imported milk powder nor commercial vitamins and minerals. Thus a formulation of soy flour, peanut paste and ground moringa powder was established for optimum weight gain. The children were put into a program of weight gain measurements and the caregivers received a quantity of RUF weekly.  Samples of this formulation called BBB were analyzed at Makerere University and compared to USAID food supplements and a commercially available product (Plumpy’nut).  The total energy, fat, protein, fiber and vitamin C contents of this locally made formulation equaled or exceeded the above noted benchmark supplements. 
In Bundibugyo, the BBB program is evolving to increase the potential for long term impact based upon the results of this preliminary evaluation. CTI is proud and delighted to be an on-going part of this program to support those who are helping to sustain those in resource limited areas throughout the developing world, where one-third of the children suffer from under nourishment.

(The data and photos contained in this article were extracted from a paper presented to THE UGANDA NUTRITION CONGRESS, February 19th-20th 2009. The title of the Congress was: ‘The Challenges, Successes and Opportunities to Improve Nutrition.’ CTI’s contribution is recognized in this paper.)