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.


The global community is increasingly recognizing gender inequality – and its implications for food security – as a critical issue to understand and address.

Women make up an estimated 43 percent of the global agricultural workforce, yet they receive only a fraction of the resources ­– seeds, land, access to markets, agricultural training – compared to men.

Understanding why this gender gap exists is crucial to reversing it – and boosting global food and nutrition security in the process.

In a report conducted by MAIZE, a CGIAR Research Program, researchers examined how household gender dynamics affect women’s demand for, and adoption of, mechanization. The report studied four sites across Kenya and Ethiopia, observing significant differences in norms and values in how agricultural labor is gendered and governed.

A gendered division of labor was apparent across all four sites, with women often experiencing chronic time poverty and exhaustion as a result. Women are responsible for several highly labor-intensive tasks, including tillage, post-harvest management, and transport of produce. All responsibility for reproductive labor—such as childcare and water/fuel collection—rests on women as well.

These responsibilities limit women’s opportunities outside of the home, such as business training or education.

CTI seeks to overcome these barriers by working with women as co-designers, utilizing participatory research to ensure our tools make sense to rural women farmers. The tools are designed, field tested, and modified in direct collaboration with women smallholders. This was one of the key recommendations of the MAIZE report – that women are involved in the design process to ensure mechanized technologies reflect their unique priorities and constraints.

Providing women a dramatic boost in productivity, these technologies allow valuable time for women to create businesses and access new markets – helping women strengthen their leadership within the community and improving the standard of living for entire villages.

The MAIZE report emphasizes that mechanization alone will not change gender roles overnight. Within male-headed households, for example, men still determine whether or not labor-saving methods will be used. For organizations such as CTI, understanding these cultural norms is crucial to ensure technologies and services are accepted and adopted by communities.

You can read more about CTI’s approach here.

There is more than enough food in the world to feed everyone, yet nearly one billion people are chronically hungryan estimated 60 percent of which are women and girls. BRIDGE, a gender and development-focused program at the Institute of Development Studies, recently released their 2014 report examining the role gender plays in hunger and malnutrition around the world.

The 2014 BRIDGE Cutting Edge Overview Report “Gender and Food Security” provides a comprehensive gender analysis of food and nutrition insecurity, concluding that gender equality and human rights are the key to achieving food and nutrition security. Although current responses to hunger and malnutrition are not entirely gender blind, they fail to address the underlying economic, social, and cultural causes of food security that are gender unjust. The report calls for policies and programs that take a comprehensive approach to food securitylinking nutrition, gender equality, trade, finance, agriculture, and other relevant areas.
IMG 4182
CTI’s Executive Director Alexandra Spieldoch brought her extensive experience to the study as lead advisor and co-author, collaborating with over 40 experts on food and nutrition security and gender around the world over a two-year process.

As an organization that primarily focuses on post-harvest technologies, CTI is incredibly excited about this work. In rural areas, women are responsible for the majority of post-harvest laborand we’ve seen firsthand how reducing this burden can increase yields, improve the quality of food produced, and help women better market and sell their crops. But while improving women’s access to technologies and resources is important, this report emphasizes that access alone is not enough. We are excited to learn from this report and engage in the dialogue it creates! Read the full report here.

Thursday, 07 February 2013

5 surprising facts about poverty you need to know

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1) The hungriest people grow food for a living

Global hunger and poverty are largely a rural phenomenon. 70% of the developing world’s extremely poor people are in rural communities and work in agriculture. Developing world farmers rarely have access to electricity or fuel, so they must plant, harvest and process their crops by hand. They barely produce enough food to survive, which is why they’re often referred to as “subsistence farmers.”

2) We’re growing plenty of food

We are currently growing enough food to feed everyone in the world, but roughly 1/3 of the food produced for human consumption gets lost or wasted. By losing so much food, we are missing an opportunity to feed our world’s growing population.

In many African countries, at least 25% of the total cereal crop is lost after harvest, usually due to a lack of storage and efficient post-harvest processing technologies. Our Executive Director, Roger Salway, is in Senegal meeting with farmers that have received our new Grain Processing Suite: a manually-operated stripper, thresher and winnower captures more than 90% of pearl millet grain at a rate 10x faster than traditional processing methods. Check out our blog for more on Roger’s journey.

3)   Dirty water exacerbates poverty

Clean water has a direct tie to a community’s economic wellbeing. Every $1 invested in improved water and sanitation yields an average of $4 – $12 for the local economy.

In rural Nicaragua, we help villages install our Water Chlorinator—an inexpensive device that produces safe water for an entire village for just pennies per day. The project is saving lives, helping kids go back to school and allowing parents to return to work. We are providing safe water for 135,000 in Nicaragua, and we plan to double our impact by the summer of 2014.

4) We already know how to fix it

Investing in agriculture is, hands down, the most effective method of reducing poverty. Growth in agriculture is 2x more effective at reducing poverty than any other type of development effort.

Unfortunately, our investment in agriculture is declining. USAID allocates just 5% of funds to agricultural programs, and globally, less than 6% of official development assistance supports agriculture (down from 17% in 1982).

5)   Poverty is declining, and we can be the generation that eliminates it

Global poverty isn’t inevitable—it’s dropping in every region of the developing world. In 1990, 43% of people in the developing world lived on less than $1.25 per day—today, it’s only 22%—meaning nearly a billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty in the past 20 years.


We have an opportunity to build on this historic progress.


Visit our website right now, and invest $10 in the fight to erase poverty for good.


Donate Now


$10 is the amount of money the average American throws away in uneaten food every week. It may not be much money to us, but $10 can go a long way in the developing world. So let’s put that $10 to good use!




This article was originally published in CTI’s newsletter. Sign up now to receive monthly updates from CTI.

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, 15 September 2008

Wooden Grinder Update

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Jerry LaGra reports from Guyana that he and his team have built a wooden grinder out of a native hard wood called Purple Heart.  Jerry indicated that the carpenter that made the grinder has above average skills and easily copied the oak grinder that CTI sent as a model (see photo).  The metal pieces that comprise the working parts of the grinder were also sent and incorporated into this Purple Heart grinder.  Fearing concerns about contamination, Jerry modified the design to include a stainless steel liner for the parts of the grinder that touched the food.  Jerry admits that this was a defensive decision because Purple Heart is already widely used for food bowls and other serving dishes.  Further work will be required on durability, leakage, etc. before the concept can receive a full endorsement, but to date the status is positive.

We have not received any reports on the horizontal axis wooden grinder and the lower cost vertical axis wooden version which have been shipped to Zambia.  We will issue another Flash Alert when we have more information.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Profile of a CTI Volunteer

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Erv Lentz, a member of CTI’s Board of Directors and very active shop volunteer was awarded our “Volunteer of the Year Award” at the October Board Meeting. When asked to send in a few comments for this bio Erv sent a four-page history! Clearly Erv is proud of his life – and he should be.

College life, sports, ROTC, leadership of many volunteer organizations, entrepreneurship, engineering, corporate creativity, energy, initiative, family, faith – all come forward to mark a well-rounded volunteer. Around CTI Erv can be found on any given day making “something” in the shop, or fixing a shelf in the office, or shopping for a needed tool, or sharing experiences. Erv’s contributions to CTI’s mission and governance are huge. In recognizing him as volunteer of the year we join the thousands of people who have benefited from Erv’s touch to say, “Well Done. Thanks!”

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Drying Breadfruit in the Marshall Islands

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This past summer CTI volunteer and St. Thomas engineering professor, Camille George,was invited to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) by their Ministry of Natural Resources and Development to see if breadfruit, a plentiful food resource, could be dried and ground into flour. Food security and nutrition are two of the most pressing issues for these remote islands, located near the International Date Line and the equator. Mass relocations and financial subsidies after the USA’s nuclear testing program have resulted in a largely sedentary population severed from their traditional culture and currently dependent on imported American food. Obesity in the adult population is over 50% and diabetes is epidemic.

There is a high level of interest in the successful introduction of the harvesting and drying of excess breadfruit, which may also have a substantial social impact. Breadfruit was successfully shredded using the Tommie shredder developed by University of St. Thomas (UST) students, sun dried, and ground into flour using the Omega IV grinder developed by Compatible Technology International. The two machines were mounted on a single production stand and are currently being transported to different Marshallese islands as a first introduction of the technology. At this time a partnership is forming between UST, CTI, the Breadfruit Institute of Hawaii, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands to explore opportunities to use breadfruit commercially and to help strengthen food security.