shredding-breadfruit

Last year, two CTI volunteers, Larry Rauenhorst and myself, traveled to Haiti carrying two pieces of processing equipment: a shredder designed by CTI’s staff engineer and the latest iteration of a simple shredder that I had been working trying to perfect for several years. Larry and I set out to test and determine the reliability and usefulness of the equipment.

Through the years, CTI has partnered with Haitian organizations and people in an effort to help put Haitians to work processing an underutilized resource, a strange tropical fruit call breadfruit. The fruit grows on trees, mostly along the coast, are picked green (unripe), usually cut up, cooked and eaten like a vegetable. Much of the fruit simply rots and is wasted. CTI volunteers were asked if we could find ways of preserving breadfruit by shredding, drying and grinding breadfruit into shelf-stable flour, which could be made into useful products and help Haiti with better food security. Hand shredding of breadfruit is tedious, so enter myself and Larry, with our new shredders set to be tested.

We were hosted by the Agriculture College of the University of the Nouvelle GrandAnse in Jeremie, Haiti. While only about 100 miles from Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, reaching Jeremie took eight and a half hours over steep mountainous roads. The college provided us with three paid students, and together, we set out to process at least 2,000 pounds of breadfruit in fewer than ten work days.

Larry and I trained the students on processing the fruit to a stable, dry product. This entailed:

  • Cleaning the fruit and equipment river water that’s been disinfected
  • Each lot of ten fruit were weighed, peeled cored, shredded, and laid out to try (unusable peel and core were also weighed)
  • Shed samples were measured for thickness and length

The student teams processed 2,023 lbs of fresh breadfruit in eight days averaging 252.9 lbs per day. The amount of flour made from the ton of fresh breadfruit was 394 lbs.

How did the two shredders fare in the tests? The Mounir design worked wonderfully well and did almost all of the shredding. Red-faced Dave had to admit it was time to go back to the drawing board, make some important changes and perhaps shred another day.

What about the students? Did they continue to do what they had learned to do last year. You Betcha! The August issue of the college newsletter reports that two of the three students we worked with, Marie and Pierre, chose breadfruit processing as their required internship. During this summer alone they processed 215 dozen breadfruit or 6,450 lbs of fresh breadfruit. They now have three contracts with orphanages and schools in Port-au-Prince. They sell breadfruit flour for $2.00 (US) per 12 ounce bag plus shipping and handling. Package includes instructions, recipes and the story of how the breadfruit flour project developed.

Red face Dave, like Marie and Pierre, has learned from his experiences of last year. Previously I depended on others to test my shredder. For whatever reason I was not told of all the things that were wrong with it. I needed to discover those things myself. Stop in to CTI and see the Elton shredder I am now proud of.


dave

David Elton

David has been a volunteer with CTI for many years, focusing on developing breadfruit shredding technologies.

Published in Shredder

Volunteers Arrive in Haiti

CTI volunteer Natalie George is blogging from Haiti, where she’s joined her mother Dr. Camille George, CTI Board Member, Program Manager and Professor at the University of Saint Thomas.

The George’s are in Haiti helping locals take advantage of an underutilized food source: Breadfruit. Breadfruit grows in abundance in Haiti, but spoils just days after ripening. CTI has developed a set of tools that villagers can use to preserve breadfruit as affordable flour.

Natalie and Camille are in Port au Prince, helping Haitians open a breadfruit bakery and showing “field to fork” proof that breadfruit can be harvested, transformed into flour, and processed into delicious and nutritious food products.

First Impressions

Street in Haiti

After departing the airport, we start driving to our hotel and I get my first glimpse of Haiti’s capital city. It reminded me a lot of Mali in West Africa, but with its own twist. The roads are half-paved, half-broken rubble and, the further you get into the city, the more broken and choppy the roads get. There are people EVERYWHERE and like in Africa, many of them transport their goods on their heads. However, their clothing surprisingly resembles that of Americans.

The poverty level is extremely noticeable, more than I have ever seen in my life. I didn’t think that the earthquake’s destruction would still be evident, but it definitely still is. There are severely broken buildings with giant boulders of concrete all about, but there are also buildings right next door which are completely fine.

I notice that there isn’t a road sign in sight. Instead, there’s spray paint on the concrete walls with a name and some numbers. The roads are so twisted I have absolutely no clue how people know where to go!

Each building is surrounded by a giant concrete wall and then a huge metal door. To get inside people just beep a few times and then someone comes and opens this massive metal gate door. The concrete walls all either have barbed wire or cleverly have broken glass bottles along the top of the wall to discourage people from scaling them.

Breadfruit Bakery, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Day 1

On our first day, we wake up at 6:30am and it’s already 90 outside. Our friend Brulan navigates us through the twisty rocky roads, and we approach a random concrete wall and he beeps ever so lightly and someone opens the door.

How will we run a bakery without electricity? Stay tuned for an update!

Published in Uncategorized
Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Tackling Hunger with Breadfruit Tools

Breadfruit is a high-carbohydrate fruit that grows in abundance in tropical nations that struggle with hunger and poverty. Breadfruit has been long recognized for its potential to alleviate hunger in countries like Haiti, but there’s just one problem: fresh breadfruit rots in 48 hours.

But if poor communities were able to make flour out of breadfruit, locally produced breadfruit flour could replace expensive imported cereals and increase food security.

Compatible Technology International (CTI), with help from a team of engineers, researchers and breadfruit experts, is developing a set of tools that will allow villagers to process breadfruit into shelf-stable flour.

Shredder
CTI has designed a manually-operated shredder that shreds breadfruit into small strips that are optimally shaped for quick drying. Engineers at CTI and the University of Saint Thomas (UST) reached the current shredder design after testing other concepts with communities in Haiti.

Drier
After they are shredded, the breadfruit strips must be dried quickly to prevent spoiling. To source the best technologies for this crucial step, UST recently organized and judged a contest challenging teams to develop a simple, effective and affordable breadfruit drying structure.

The first place winner of the contest is a team of long-time CTI volunteers, and second place is a team from the University of California, Davis. In March, both teams will travel to Hawaii to present their designs at the Breadfruit Institute, a division of the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

Grinder
Once dried, breadfruit strips can easily be ground into flour by villagers using CTI’s grinder. The breadfruit processing system will go through rigorous tests at the Breadfruit Institute before being deployed in the Caribbean.

Breadfruit flour could be an important microenterprise opportunity and an untapped source of nutrition for food insecure communities. With your help, we can get these and other innovations into the hands of the communities that need them.

Published in Uncategorized

In the months following the tragic earthquake in January 2010, CTI began collaborating with organizations working in rural Haiti. Though the earthquake was devastating to Port-au-Prince, communities outside of the capital city were struggling to find food and employment for their current residents, let alone the influx of refugees displaced from the earthquake.

Using donations from several organizations, the Haitian Health Foundation (HHF) began purchasing grinders to help families near Jeremie, Haiti support themselves. The grinders, in the words of Bette Gebrian, HHF Director of Public Health: “are making such a profound difference…”

Funds for grinders were donated by many supporters, including several rotary clubs. With help from members of the Jeremie Rotary, Mme Josie Charles has built a business using a CTI grinder to make and sell peanut butter and a warm corn-based drink called Akasan. Mme Charles cooks the Akasan by 6am and sells it all by 8am, so children can drink it on their way to school. The small enterprise has been very successful.

The Haitian Health Foundation has distributed more than 20 grinders which are being used to create micro-enterprises. 17 more grinders will be shipped to HHF in late January, 2012.

 

Published in Uncategorized

For nearly 30 years, CTI has worked with volunteer engineers and scientists in heart of the Midwest United States’ agricultural belt to create food and water technologies that relieve hunger and poverty in the developing world. With the help of supporters and partners around the globe, we are providing meaningful and lasting solutions for “the bottom billion.”

Innovation that can feed the world: Many African pearl millet farmers struggle to produce enough food to make a living, yet they lose about half of their harvest using rudimentary processing tools.To develop innovative new equipment for processing pearl millet, one of the most widely eaten cereal crops in the developing world, we collaborated with volunteer scientists and engineers from the USDA, ICRISAT, and the OneLab Initiative. The result has been a breakthrough technology: the first successful hand-operated tools for threshing and winnowing the pearl millet. The set of devices can capture 90% of a farmer’s grain, potentially doubling the pearl millet food supply in some of the most famine-prone regions of the world.

“Sometimes providing a simple service like a grinder can transform a community”  – Curtis Rogers, NWHCM Community Development Coordinator

Partnering to deliver solutions for the “Bottom Billion”: After the devastating earthquake hit Haiti, CTI’s generous donors provided grinders to help feed and employ Haitians. Since then, we have been helping Feed My Starving Children distribute grinders to their partner feeding sites throughout Haiti. At Northwest Haiti Christian Mission, CTI grinders have been made available to people in a number of towns, freeing them from a two to three hour walk to the nearest commercial miller. With grinders centrally located throughout Haiti, community members have an opportunity to produce nutritious food for their family or start businesses.

Engaging communities Development can only be sustainable with the participation of local communities. CTI’s culturally appropriate solutions empower locals to take ownership of their future. In Nicaragua, where less than half the people have access to clean drinking water, we’ve engaged community water groups to help install and maintain dozens of water chlorination devices in rural communities. By working together, CTI and rural Nicaraguans are providing clean drinking water for dozens of communities.

Without the support of CTI’s skilled volunteers and generous donors, thousands of families in rural Nicaragua would be without clean drinking water and farmers in Mali will continue to lose half of their livelihoods for lack of simple tools. Together, community by community, we can end extreme hunger and poverty!

Published in Haiti
Monday, 01 March 2010

Looking Forward in Haiti

Following the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti in early January, CTI began to receive calls from relief organizations looking for manually operated equipment to process the food aid pouring into the country. Many organizations distributing food did not have access to electricity or gas, so there was great demand for hand-powered devices that could process flour and peanut butter. In response to this demand, generous donors paid for grinders and travel expenses, allowing CTI to send a volunteer to Haiti to distribute grinders and train the end users.

Upon arrival in Cap Haitien, CTI Americas Committee Vice Chair, Sam Usem, quickly realized that the desperate situation in the country extends far beyond the Port au Prince region. An estimated half-million people have fled Haiti’s capital in a little over a month. In Cap Haitian, on the north coast of Haiti, refugees have been pouring in looking for food, water, and relief from the destruction.

There is famous expression in Haiti, “Dèyè mon gen mon”, which roughly translates to, “beyond the mountains, there are mountains”. This expression has several meanings, and is often used to express the seemingly endless challenges the country has faced. Even before the earthquake, 80% of Haitians lived in poverty, and  88% of the rural population lived in poverty. However, Sam met with countless determined individuals who demonstrated that, despite their desperate circumstances, Haitians have never given up on working towards a better future.

While in Haiti, Sam had the opportunity to meet with RAFAVAL, a women’s group located in the town of Limonade. With the help of the Haitian development nonprofit, Sonje Ayiti, the women’s co-op had started a business making chocolate for hot cocoa. When presented with CTI’s Ewing Grinder, the women were thrilled that they will no longer have to travel to pay someone to grind their cocoa, saving them time and money.

“RAFAVAL will be making Hot Cocoa to distribute at makeshift shelters in Limonade and will use this new tool to make more Hot Cocoa to sell locally. This is not relief, but development and empowerment. Thanks to Compatible Technology International.” – Gabrielle, Country Director for Sonje Ayiti

Sam met with several other co-op groups throughout Haiti. While many people he encountered expressed reservations about believing more talk about “saving” Haiti, they still shared the hope that, this time, sustainable development will be more than a promise.

As refugees flee Port au Prince and settle in rural areas, there is an opportunity for an investment in Haiti’s long neglected countryside. Two-thirds of Haitians work in agriculture, yet the country imports between 57 and 80% of its food, and much of the population is subsisting on the edge of starvation. Haiti’s agriculture sector will be an essential component for building the country’s future.

CTI’s approach is very well suited to help revitalize agriculture in Haiti. CTI technologies are ideal for small-holder farmers and are adaptable to most food crops grown in Haiti. CTI is currently working on developing projects that will contribute to the sustainable rebuilding of Haiti.

In Haiti, the famous proverb, “Beyond the mountains, there are mountains,” is also used to express the idea that there are endless opportunities and infinite possibilities. In the months and years to come, Compatible Technology International will be working to provide opportunities to for Haitians to feed and support themselves. At CTI, we believe that there is a brighter future ahead for Haiti and we will hope you join us as we help Haitians build it.

Published in Haiti

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! 

 

Published in Grinder
Friday, 16 January 2009

Breadfruit Goes Commercial

While numerous traditional methods have been developed to process and store breadfruit, this easy-to-grow, nutritious carbohydrate fruit will never become more than a locally important crop unless economical, reliable methods of extending its shelf-life and commercially processing it are developed.” - Diane Ragone, Director of the Breadfruit Institute, Hawaii

In 1996, Inette Durandis, Director of the Committee on Development (COD) of the Haitian Methodist Church asked CTI to help her commercialize breadfruit, saying “Why can’t we make bread and other food stuffs from this fruit which is so abundant in Haiti?  My farmers are tearing up their coffee trees to plant wheat for a cash crop, but by the third year the land has washed away and now they have nothing.  If we could make breadfruit a cash crop it would be a Godsend.”

CTI and the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church accepted this challenge.  In spite of a civil war, numerous hurricanes, political embroilments and several false starts, CTI and Hennepin Avenue UMC established a process, conducted taste surveys, and selected the primary equipment necessary to commercialize breadfruit.  A company called SATAG (Antillean Food Processing Corporation) was incorporated into the project, and they wrote a proposal for start-up funding.  CTI volunteers tested recipes and created a commercial product that has much to offer the people of Haiti:

·  A highly nutritious snack food at a very competitive price.
·  A new industry for Haiti that would employ 180 rural people to
harvest and dry the breadfruit.
·  A new business that would employ 32 persons on a one shift basis.
·  A locally-produced cereal that would replace imported cereals.
·  A potentially exportable product.

The Board of Directors of the Banque Nationale de Credit of Haiti met with SATAG Incorporators, Ms. Durandis (COD), and Fred Joseph in December, 2008 to discuss the Breadfruit Project.  There, Board members munched on the breadfruit snack that the CTI/Hennepin Avenue UMC team had processed in South Beloit, WI the previous week.  The product was well received and the bank committed to disburse the necessary funds “in time for sales in September 2009.”   We look forward to the public production of the CTI designed breadfruit snack later this year!

(Thanks to the project team: Hank Garwick, Project Leader, George Ewing, Technical Director, Dave Elton, Drying Process, Christine Nowakowski, Senior Scientist, General Mills and many others including American Extrusion personnel.)

Published in Haiti
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

New Solutions in Haiti

CTI volunteer and Technology Committee Chair, Erv Lentz, has solved a major problem for Dr. Pat Wolff of Meds and Food for Kids in Haiti.  Dr. Wolff uses our Omega VI grinder to create Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) for children in Haiti who are suffering from severe malnutrition.  She creates RUTF by first grinding peanuts into paste, then passing the peanut paste through a separate Omega VI with added oil, powdered milk, sugar, and vitamins and minerals.  This “medika mamba” (the translation is “peanut butter medicine”) became syrupy and tended to run out the clearance hole for the shaft in the rear of the hopper.  While this leakage was a housekeeping problem for Dr. Wolff’s operation, it was also inhibiting her from securing approval from UNICEF to expand her operation, so she approached CTI for a solution.

After much research, Erv was able to find a stock die and food grade silicon-rubber sealant for adhering the seal to the hopper wall (see photo).  It works so well it maintained a seal after being run constantly for over a week.  (That’s 2.5 million revolutions on the shaft!)  This rubber seal is low-cost and was sent down to Haiti and adhered to Dr. Wolff’s Omega VI grinders.  CTI volunteer George Farrell reports that the seals were easy to adhere to the grinders and, although he was concerned they would come off when the grinders were cleaned, they have stuck very well and the leakage has stopped!
Dr. Wolff now looks forward to approval of her operation from UNICEF.  Approval may mean that a lot more children will have access to the life-saving Ready to Use Therapeutic Food and many more CTI grinders will be used.  This is another great example of how our volunteers are continually creating simple technical solutions with life-saving results!  Great work Erv!  (To read a recent CNN.com article that mentions Dr. Wolff, follow this link: As Children Starve, World Struggles for Solution.)

Published in Haiti