Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Field Notes from Malawi

Written by Bupe Mulaga Mwakasungula, Malawi Project Manager

LovenessBlogLet me introduce you to a true superhero. Loveness is a farmer and entrepreneur from a small town in Kasungu District in Malawi. She’s the main breadwinner for her family — her husband passed away last year – and she runs several businesses including a small grocery store and a farm where she grows peanuts and sugarcane.

Loveness has 10 children depending on her, so we were blown away when she told us she’s managed to educate them all. Some of her kids are working now, while others are finishing secondary school. She owns a few cows, an iron sheet house – a luxury – and as of a few weeks ago, she’s also the proud owner of a CTI peanut stripper.

Loveness is the first farmer to purchase a peanut stripper on her own, rather than as part of a women’s group. CTI’s peanut stripper helps farmers rapidly remove peanut pods from the stem, and is part of a suite of tools that also includes equipment for harvesting and shelling peanuts. The tools help farmers produce more peanuts with far less effort, and they improve the quality and market value of their crop.

“My plan is to have all three of CTI’s peanut tools so I can use them on my field and earn money lending them out to other farmers.”

Loveness is a role model in her community, and when she starts using new technologies, others follow. Loveness is organizing a meeting with her neighbors this month so she can show them how to use the stripper.

“Owning these tools, for me, is a sign of wealth,” she told us. “Please bring me a sheller, I will buy it too.”

We are collaborating with farmer organizations throughout Malawi to introduce our peanut tools to farmer leaders and women’s organizations. We provide tools, training and ongoing support, while the farmer groups cover the material costs of the peanut equipment through loans or savings.

As we monitor their progress over the next year, we’re learning about the most effective models for farmers to purchase the equipment and earn a return on their investment – valuable information which will help us scale the tools in Malawi and throughout the region. Thank you to our generous donors, as well as the McKnight Foundation and the CHS Foundation, for supporting this work.

Published in blog

What would you do if you were on your own, with six kids to care for, and fighting for your life?

If you’re like Joyce, you get to work.

A few years ago, Joyce was in bad shape. Like 10% of Malawians, Joyce had HIV. Her weight had dropped to 85 pounds and no one expected her to live much longer. But she was a fighter. Joyce and others with HIV in her community began growing peanuts. They got their hands on a CTI grinder and started making peanut butter. Before long, everything changed.

Eating peanut butter helped Joyce and her friends gain weight. With better nutrition, their HIV medication started to kick in. Now Joyce is strong, healthy, and is selling peanut butter to help put her kids through school.

“Since this grinder was introduced to me, I have seen a big change in my health. Even my children cannot believe how much my health has changed,” said Joyce. "People can’t believe that I have HIV.” ” 

This project was made possible by the suport of Earthen Vessels, click here to learn more. 

Published in blog
nutritionMalawi is one of the most malnourished countries in the world. In this small southeast African country, about the size of Ohio, malnutrition typically starts during childhood as a result of micronutrient deficiencies, a diet comprised of mostly cereals, and food shortages. Chronic malnutrition causes stunting in children, and those who survive it often deal with lifelong health and cognitive development challenges. The lasting effects of undernutrition impacts 60% of Malawi’s adults and cost the economy millions of dollars each year.

But that’s only a part of Malawi’s story. In recent years, Malawi has made major strides in reducing child mortality (down 80% since 1990) and the prevalence of HIV. Malawi is nicknamed “the warm heart of Africa” and it’s full of incredibly resilient communities working together to improve life for everyone. And it’s paying off.

At CTI, we’re equipping communities with tools that will help them produce more peanuts—one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. And we’re partnering with farmer co-ops and researchers in Malawi so families have nutritious, high-yielding seed varieties. Together, and with the support of our donors, we are helping communities boost their yields and diversify their diets so families are healthier and kids can look forward to brighter futures.

5 Things You Should Know about Child Nutrition in Malawi 

1) 23% percent of all child mortality cases in Malawi are associated with undernutrition

2) Today, 1.4 million or almost half of the children in Malawi are stunted

3) 66% of the adult population engaged in manual activities were stunted as children, representing an annual loss of US$ 67 million

4) Of all school year repetitions, 18 percent are associated with stunting

5) The total annual costs associated with child undernutrition are estimated at US$ 597 million, equivalent to 10.3% of GDP

Published in blog

milletstalks

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.

Published in Newsletter
Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Can peanut farmers crack global poverty?

Groundnut stripper

To Americans, peanuts are a simple food—a snack staple in ballparks and backpacks alike. But for millions of farmers in Malawi, this humble legume may offer a path out of poverty. 

One of the most nutritious foods on the planet, peanuts are rich in protein and healthy fats. They’re also a valuable crop that grows well in Malawi’s hot, dry climate.

Malawi’s small farmers are responsible for 93 percent of the country’s peanut production. But they’re not profiting. Women harvest and process their nuts by hand—work that is exhausting and time-consuming. And when farmers try to sell their harvest, they’re often taken advantage of by vendors who buy low and sell high. So while the farmers are doing the hard work, vendors are getting the profits.

New technologies are changing the game for Malawi’s peanut farmers.

CTI has developed a suite of tools to help farmers harvest and process more peanuts, faster. The tools were designed with input from hundreds of small farmers, who praised them for their ability to shell high-quality nuts. Farmers were confident the tools would help them grow and sell more peanuts—and often asked to buy the prototypes on the spot. Now CTI is working with local manufacturers to get farmers these tools in time for the May harvest.

We’re on a mission to make sure farmers can get their hands on the tools, sell their nuts at a fair price, and profit.

Over the next two years, we’re partnering with farmers’ organizations across Malawi—including NASFAM, the largest smallholder farmer group in the country. Farmers’ groups like NASFAM give farmers access to resources like new technologies, training, and good seed. By working in a group to sell their crops, farmers’ organizations can also help their members get better prices at market.With this partnership, farmers' organizations can now offer CTI's peanut tools to their members—giving farmers the support they need to reap the full benefits of their labor.

CTI Executive Director Alexandra Spieldoch was recently in Malawi to kick off the McKnight-supported project. While there, she met with the President of the Republic of Malawi, Peter Mutharika, to share more about our work.

President Mutharika was supportive of the program, as peanuts are a growing priority for the Malawi government. An agricultural country, Malawi has 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 their peanut production through seed subsidies and other initiatives.

But most peanut farmers aren’t thinking about export opportunities or how to solve global food insecurity. Instead, they’re wondering if this season’s harvest will be enough to eat and sell. While developing our tools, we interviewed over 200 small farmers in Malawi. They told us that access to the tools would help them increase their incomes, boost nutrition, and improve their quality of life. 97 percent of farmers said they would plant more peanuts if the nuts were easier to harvest and process. Now, we can make easier harvesting and processing a reality.

Published in Groundnuts

In a small town in rural Malawi, elated villagers met CTI with song and dance as they gathered to celebrate the arrival of CTI’s peanut stripper, a new prototype that will liberate families from the drudgery of stripping peanut pods from the plant by hand.

Peanuts, or “groundnuts” as they’re known in Africa, grow in abundance throughout East and West Africa and provide an important source of income and nutrition for many poor communities.

 

Farming by hand aggravates hunger

Without proper tools, groundnut growers face huge obstacles bringing their crop from the field to the market. Women spend most of their day processing their harvest by hand, time that could be spent growing more food or running a business.

CTI is collaborating with African groundnut growers to develop a set of affordable and culturally-appropriate devices that harvest, strip and shell groundnuts. The program, funded by the McKnight Foundation, is based in Tanzania and in Malawi, where we just delivered our new groundnut strippers to 16 rural villages.

New peanut tools liberate farmers

 

The groundnut stripper is constructed from a metal frame covered with woven metal–a material similar to chain link fencing. When a farmer slides a groundnut plant across metal, the nuts get snagged and easily pop off the plant. The groundnut strippers are a vast improvement upon the traditional processing methods, where women tediously strip the pods from the plant by hand, one pod at a time.

With this new tool, farmers can strip their groundnut pods three times faster than doing so by hand. 

With the addition of harvesting and shelling equipment also being developed by CTI, farmers will be able to significantly increase the quality of their nuts in a fraction of the processing time, earning higher profits and greater opportunities increase their standard of living.

Published in Uncategorized

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.

Published in East Africa

Malnutrition is widespread in Malawi and Tanzania, particularly among children under five whose diet is deficient in protein, oils and micronutrients. The need is urgent to develop and harvest improved, nutritious foods using locally available crops such as groundnuts (commonly called peanuts). Increased groundnut production can significantly improve individual nutrition as well as economic security.

In September, Compatible Technology International was awarded a Grant from the McKnight Foundation to enhance child nutrition using groundnuts in rural Malawi and Tanzania. CTI will lead the four-year, $673,000 project, which is a partnership with Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

“This project is essentially about collaborating with these farm families about the crops growing naturally in their environments,” said CTI’s vice president of operations, Bert Rivers. “This collaboration is important, not only to provide additional nutrition to their families, but to also provide increased revenue for their households to improve their livelihood. We are also being educated by the farmers about the realities of their living conditions and farming systems.”

The project will include 3 primary goals:

1)       To develop a nutritious food for post-weaning children
2)       To determine best practices for processing groundnuts
3)       To establish capacity in-country

In the first component of the project, CTI, its partners, and food scientists, will research and develop a nutritional foodstuff for young children using groundnuts and other local staple crops.

Compatible Technology International’s post-harvest processing technology and experience will be instrumental for the second component of the project, in which CTI will help determine the best practices for processing groundnuts in rural Tanzania and Malawi. An integral part of this project will be determining the tools and practices individual farmers need to get the maximum value from their crops.

A fundamental aspect of CTI’s mission is to give people the tools they need to feed and support themselves. The final component of the project incorporates this principle and is essential to the project’s ultimate success. CTI and its partners will be working over the next four years to ensure that they leave behind the tools necessary for local communities to continue to benefit from the project.

CTI volunteer and Technical Advisory Council Member, Steve Clarke inspects the papayas in Tanzania

In late September, CTI volunteer, Steve Clarke and Vice President of Operations, Bert Rivers traveled to Tanzania to kick off the McKnight project. During their trip, they had the opportunity to travel to Morogoro, the home campus of Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA). While at SUA, the CTI travelers were able to meet first hand some more of their collaborators in the project. These face to face meetings gave them the opportunity to put into place some concrete action plans for the project. While in Morogoro they made contact with local fabricators who might become the agents of our capacity building activities in Tanzania.

In the city of Bagamoyo, Bert and Steve met for McKnight’s Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP) for Southern Africa Annual Grantee Meeting. At the gathering, in addition to each Grantee presenting the status report for their project, attendees were introduced to the needs of individual farmers through their participation in the conference’s discussions. McKnight also took the opportunity to present a powerful team of guest speakers who spoke on improving the quality and the depth of the research being conducted by the Grantees.

While all these researchers were present, Bert and Steve had the opportunity to tell CTI’s story, both publically and in one-on-one sessions. It was during these sessions that Steve and Bert believe that CTI made a major impact upon the attendees. They were able to show the track record that CTI has established over the years and the value of CTI technologies for farmers and villagers. Many of the attendees are hungry for what CTI can bring to their communities.

Published in Sothern Africa
Sunday, 16 November 2008

CTI Volunteer Visits Malawi

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.

Published in East Africa