Thursday, 15 October 2009

CTI Awarded Vista Hermosa Grant

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CTI was recently awarded $15,000 by the Vista Hermosa Foundation for a potato processing enterprise in India.  This will be a joint project with Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis.  The project will be implemented in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India in a community established in 1976 as part of the Gandhi 21 Point Program to provide livelihoods other than begging. Through the efforts of United Methodist Church missionaries, Hank and Dorthea Garwick (of Minnesota), who are also CTI volunteers, the community established a “weaving Ashram”. The weaving enterprise and support from the Methodist Church has helped sustain the community since 1976. However, due to global economic changes there is a current glut of woven fabric and the market for textile production has dwindled and the community has an immediate need for new income. CTI will use the Vista Hermosa funds to help establish a potato processing enterprise that will produce community income.

Potato Processing:
Throughout the last two years, CTI volunteers Shiv Murty, Steve Laible, and Nancy Laible have been in contact with Prof. Narendra Shah at the Center for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA) at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay to discuss the rural community needs and potential solutions in the region near Mumbai.

A major need in the area is to preserve the potato harvest in a way that will generate income.  To that end, a project to disseminate small-scale equipment to make “processed potato products” was initiated at CTARA. The project involves developing equipment for making puffed potato cubes which can be consumed or sold at market. To help streamline the manufacturing process, CTI offered its potato peeling and slicing equipment from West Bengal.  After a visit to CTIvolunteer Bibek Ray’s potato-processing facilities in Gohaldanga, West Bengal, Prof. Shah and his team decided to purchase the peeler and slicer units for testing. The units will be fabricated in West Bengal and shipped to Mumbai by March where they will be placed with a local entrepreneur for field testing.  It is everyone’s hope that the field tests will prove the equipment useful in streamlining the production of these income-generating puffed potato cubes.

Launch of a “CTI Fellowship” at IIT Bombay: 

CTI has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay to offer a fellowship for one Masters in Technology student to undertake a two year program in Technology and Development at the Center for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA). The fellowship will be offered for five years beginning in June 2009.


Funds for this “CTI Fellowship” at CTARA were underwritten by long time CTI supporters Gale and Shivram Murty (IIT Bombay alumnus).  For more than twenty five years, CTI has worked with in-country partner organizations to disseminate technology developed by our dedicated volunteers. With the launch of this program, Shiv and Gale note, “We hope that CTI’s investment in people will be just as beneficial in disseminating our technology. As the “CTI Fellows” complete their studies and join various organizations, their awareness and knowledge of CTI will enable them to integrate our technology solutions into other related programs.”  Over time this program may be extended to other parts of the world with several CTI Fellows around the world making an even greater impact in alleviating hunger and poverty.

(CTARA started a new Masters in Technology program in Technology and Development in July 2007.)

Saturday, 15 March 2008

CTI Expands Work With “the Other India”

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While much has been said and written about the emerging economy of India, there continues to be a bleak level of poverty in many areas of the country. Last November, CTI volunteers Nancy and Steve Laible helped expand CTI’s reach to “the other India”. There is a continuing need to help the parts of India that have high rates of illiteracy, a lack of electricity in the homes and millions of people existing on less than two dollars per day.

Nancy and Stevestoppedin Mumbai on their way to their primary nutrition project in Bangladesh. Fellow CTI volunteer, Shiv Murty, had made arrangements for Nancy and Steve to meet contacts at the Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay. The Institute has a Center for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA). CTI and CTARA have a lot in common regarding a mission of helping the poor with appropriate and compatible technology.  The visit had a two-fold purpose. First, Nancy and Steve presented a seminar on CTI grinder technology at the Institute. The seminar was attended by IIT faculty, research associates and graduate students. A second purpose was to transport and transfer an Omega VI grinder to the Yusuf Meherally Centre (YMC), an India based NGO that works directly with the poor of “the other India”.

CTARA and YMC have invited CTI to join them in expanding the technologies that are available to the poor in India. The visit by the Laibles is a first step in what is hoped will be an on-going collaboration with the goal of expanding the availability of CTI post harvest technologies in the areas of potato processing and grinder technology to more parts of India.

Nancy and Steve report that one of the real joys of the trip was to visit one of the YMC project sites about 40 miles east of Mumbai. Their YMC host, Haresh Shah, had made arrangements for a grinder and peanut butter demonstration with enterprise workers at Tara Village. It was amazing to see the delight in the eyes of the villagers as they discussed the ways they might use a grinder. A CTI Omega VI grinder has been added to the inventory of food processing equipment at the village enterprise. In the photos aboce, Nancy is sharing peanut butter samples with the village women.  The grinder will initially be used for training and food processing research. The research efforts will receive technical support from the CTARA group at IIT-Bombay. The women shown in the picture will soon have the training and capability to make their own peanut butter.  Continuing this three party collaboration will be a major focus of the CTI Asia Committee during the next year.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Another Compatible Technology at Work

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About this time every year, CTI volunteers Purnima and Bibek Ray return to Bibek's home town of Gohaldanga, West Bengal, India for approximately six months. There they are working to improve the social and economic welfare of the people in and around Gohaldanga. Part of the economic development program involves increasing the value of the potato harvest. In the past we have discussed the potato processing; in this article we report on storage opportunities.

In West Bengal, the potato harvest is large. However, due to the climatic conditions, much of the crop rots quickly before it can be eaten or processed. Purchase prices increase rapidly as the time from harvest extends. Thus, the farmers get a low value for their harvest, but business enterprises that can refrigerate or cold store the potatoes, get a higher price as time passes. Working on a CTI funded project, Bibek and Purnima have been developing, with the assistance of CTI engineers, Rustic Storage facilities for potatoes.

A Rustic Storage Unit is a brick walled, thatched roof building constructed over an open water reservoir.These Rustic Storage units, built by farmers themselves, use the concept of evaporative cooling to greatly reduce the temperature within the facility. Due to the reduced temperature, the storage life of the potato crop is greatly extended and the farmers can get a higher price for their crops.

Last year, around Gohaldanga, the potato crop was harvested in mid-February. Potatoes stored in the facility did not begin to spoil until late July. Potatoes used for sun dried chips and strings had to be processed about a month earlier. Because the good quality life cycle of the crop could be greatly extended, farmers will be able to significantly increase the value of their cash crop by as much as 300%.