Wednesday, 01 June 2011

CTI Fufills Its Promise to Ground Nut Farmers

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Two years ago CTI was issued a challenge from the McKnight Foundation: help farming villages in Malawi and Tanzania improve groundnut production efficiency and nutrition among young children. Rather than arrive in East Africa with pre-determined solutions and tools in hand, CTI and our partners at Sokoine University of Agriculture and ICRISAT knew it would be essential to start by listening to the farmers and building trust with the communities.

During the first year of the project, we traveled to 32 communities in Malawi and Tanzania to interview 640 families about the challenges they face producing groundnuts and struggling to feed their families. Across communities and countries, the farmers expressed frustration with harvesting, stripping, and shelling groundnuts – operations which are usually performed tediously by hand and largely by women.

The CTI team began focusing their efforts on developing a more efficient method of stripping groundnut pods from the plant, which farmers (primarily women) currently do by hand, pod-by-pod. We gathered a research team to investigate existing technologies for stripping groundnuts and after delving through journal archives and warehouses at research institutes, the team identified three potential devices for proof-of-concept evaluation.

In May, Bert Rivers and Steve Clarke brought these devices to Malawi to test in controlled on-station trials and in the field with project farmers. Besides gathering statistical data on equipment performance, the team gathered feedback from the farmers they had interviewed, who were delighted that CTI had lived up to its promise to include them in designing the solution.

 “The farmers were thrilled. We had been promising for the past year as we collected information from them that we were coming back with equipment and we did. We kept our promise. The credibility of CTI and the McKnight Foundation jumped immeasurably because of our actions.”   – Bert Rivers, CTI VP of Operations

 CTI’s team will use the farmers’ feedback to further develop prototypes for groundnut stripping. In addition, we will begin researching improved methods for harvesting and shelling groundnuts as these were also identified as major impediments by the farmers. Concurrently with the introduction of these new devices, CTI and our partners are exploring new marketing options for the farmers and we are beginning to feed complementary foods to the babies involved in the study.

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