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.

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.

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.)

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Iringa (Tanzania) Festival

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In the recent past, one of the main destinations of our Omega VI grinder has been the Iringa area of Tanzania. The conduit for this distribution has been the St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. In the past two years over 20 Omegas have been hand carried to Iringa by this group of dedicated missionaries. Most recently, a group from Our Saviour’s Lutheran in Hastings, MN took seven Omegas for distribution to various preaching points in the region.

On Saturday, November 1st, 2008, the St. Paul Area Synod held an Iringa Festival which brought together the Synod leadership on this project together with the Bishop from Iringa and his leaders. CTI was pleased to support this Festival with an informational booth. We premiered the new video, “This is CTI,” along with grinding demonstrations and other displays. CTI was ably represented by volunteers Jim Sentz, Ralph Thrane and Board member Kathy Junek.

Despite a busy schedule of events, CTI was able to renew many previous associations and to make new contacts. The telling of the CTI story was a key component of our presentations. For those who had heard it before, it reinforced our message; for those hearing it for the first time, we were able to spark an understanding of CTI’s mission and how it meshed with that of the St. Paul Area Synod’s.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

CTI Volunteer Visits Malawi

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Over the past two years the Northwest Wisconsin Synod of the ELCA, in conjunction with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Malawi (ELCM), has shipped over 30 Omega VI grinders to Malawi. During the month of August, CTI volunteer Hans Zoerb visited Malawi to evaluate the impact that these grinders were having on the lives of those who were being served.

Hans reports that the distribution of the grinders is under the supervision of a nutritionist employed by the Lutheran Development Services of Malawi (LDSM). The primary emphasis of the LDSM is food security.  More specifically, their emphasis is on maximizing commodity production, storage, and conversion to value added food, food products and food ingredients. Since conversion is part of CTI’s core competency, this objective fits well with CTI. The LDSM is very interested in the grinders and supports the training and use of the machines for the production of peanut butter and flours from soy and maize. They also support the use of these machines in emerging micro businesses based at the village level.

The ELCM has placed a very high priority on organizing and developing successful women’s enterprise groups at the village level in order to: elevate the role of women in their societies, make women more effective in combating hunger, and recognizing women as a point of introduction of new ideas and techniques to the communities. The added importance of women’s groups in villages is their connection to the feeding centers. In many of these villages, peanut butter is the primary product because the Omega grinder can produce relatively large quantities of product.  Ground, roasted soy was also a significant part of their production. Both peanut butter and roasted soy bean flour are packaged and sold in 250 gram jars; or, in the case of the feeding stations, carried home by the children.

The program has been so successful that the ELCM is targeting to introduce an additional 15 grinders in the near future so that every outreach point will have their own grinder.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Volunteer Visits Uganda and Zimbabwe

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Jim Sentz, a CTI volunteer, visited Uganda and Zimbabwe during the fall of 2007.  This multi-faceted tour was planned with respect to Jim’s previous professional experiences in Africa, and more recently as a CTI Volunteer and former Africa Committee Chair.  His agenda was to observe economic and humanitarian development activities as pursued by Christian missions, international organizations and local entities.  He wanted to better understand the potential for CTI technologies and how they may contribute most toward economic and social development in the region.  A Kenyan travel guide perhaps expressed it best in his suggestion to “experience the people.”   Jim expressed “it is a challenge for us to more fully appreciate and consider the perspectives of those whom we would assist, if we are truly going to help enhance their economic and social welfare.”

In Uganda, Jim visited with both Baljit Singh of JBT (the machine shop that manufactures the Ewing grinder in Kampala) and AT-Uganda representatives (an NGO) with respect to production and distribution of the Ewing grinder.  He also explored further contacts at Makerere University in Food Science & Technology and Engineering departments with specific reference to groundnut processing, and solar dehydration technologies and to gain a better understanding of their small-scale technology industry.

In Zimbabwe, Jim visited with Tunga Rukuni, Director of University of Zimbabwe Development Technology Center (DTC), and his staff with particular reference to their evaluation of Omega VI and Ewing III grinders provided by CTI in June 2007.  Jim also discussed grinder production issues in Zimbabwe, grinder competition, promotion and distribution and the over arching impact of exorbitant inflation amid collapse of their economy.

Monday, 13 August 2007

CTI Travels to Sudan

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On a sunny June day in Jalimo, Sudan, Kathleen Graham, a CTI Volunteer, welcomed twenty Sudanese agricultural extension agents to the three day "Training of Trainers" technology workshop she had organized with the help of Norwegian People's Aid manager Ezana Getahun.  The goal was to transform these agents into Ewing grinder experts, so they could return to their communities and teach villagers to use and maintain the Ewing grinder. 

Before the workshop was over, each agent had to stand and demonstrate how he or she would teach others to take the grinder apart and put it together; to process peanuts, millet, sorghum, coffee, maize, sesame, cow peas and coffee; and to clean and maintain the grinder in good condition.  Homework included each participant preparing a written training plan, which was also presented to the group and critiqued!  Basic business planning, record keeping and food prep safety were also on the agenda, as NPA and CTI hope the grinders will become part of income generating activities.