Aflatoxins are the most toxic naturally occurring carcinogens known.

Aflatoxins are poisonous, cancer-causing chemicals that develop from mold and fungus, often as a result of improper storage and mishandled food. In many parts of Africa, aflatoxin contamination poses a serious risk to the health of rural communities. It’s also a major barrier to their ability to market their crops and earn a profit. 

Engineers at CTI are working in partnership with crop researchers at ICRISAT to develop a testing kit to help farmers and researchers identify aflatoxin in peanuts. ICRISAT has created a simple strip test that develops an easy to read black line to indicate if the peanuts are safe to eat.  CTI is researching simple, low cost technologies that can be adapted to chop the peanuts into a suitable sample size for testing. With a low-cost, field- testing kit, farmers can identify aflatoxin contamination at its source, in minutes, and mitigate a major threat to rural health and incomes.
Published in blog

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Last year, CTI and our partners EOS International and Self-Help International launched a study to measure the effectiveness of CTI’s Water Chlorinator and water treatment efforts in rural Nicaragua. We are pleased to report that in unannounced visits to 21 communities with the chlorinator installed, 95% (20 out of 21) of chlorinators were stocked with chlorine and the units were being properly maintained by villages. A full report will be released in the coming weeks, but in the meantime we want to share a few of the highlights:

  • The chlorinator completely eliminated the presence of harmful bacteria in all communities with the chlorinator operating.
  • In communities with no water treatment system, harmful bacterial contamination was found in 70% of water sources, indicating a strong need for treatment

To date, 275,000 people in 540 villages across Nicaragua have gained access to safe drinking water through our program – including 76,000 people in 136 villages over the course of 2014 alone.

Look for the full study later this year!

Published in Water
Wednesday, 06 August 2014

CTI sells out in Senegal!

womanthreshing

Aliou Ndiaye, CTI Project Manager – Senegal

Greetings from Senegal! This year we embarked on a journey to try a new model for increasing our outreach to farmers. We established our first office in Africa and began distributing our tools directly to farmers, with help from a local staff full of energy and passion.

The results surprised all of us.

CTI’s tools have flown off the shelves and in just the past six months, we’ve sold our entire inventory of grinders and threshers and we now have 80 backorders for tools to be delivered to farmers, entrepreneurs, and local organizations. CTI is committed to keeping its tools affordable, so the equipment is offered at cost and we direct farmers to financial resources to ensure they are set up for success. As a result, more than 12,000 people in 51 villages have improved their food production through CTI’s tools in Senegal.

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Project Manager Aliou Ndiaye meetings with villagers in Senegal.

You should know how grateful we are here in Senegal for your support. I’ve had the privilege of watching women’s eyes light up when they receive CTI’s thresher—representing an end to their daily drudgery. And I’ve witnessed village women transform into leaders and respected entrepreneurs through their grinder enterprises. I am honored to work for an organization that is empowering women and integrating them better in the market. The number of smiles that I see when delivering CTI’s tools gives me strength without boundaries.

In Senegal, our communities are hungry for opportunities, not handouts. More than ever, farmers have access to the seeds, fertilizer, and agricultural training to bring a good harvest. And now, with CTI in Senegal, farmers finally have affordable postharvest technologies that increase their food production and generate new income for their families.

This year, we at CTI have big plans to reach 25,000 more people in Senegal, bring safe water to 60,000 more people in Nicaragua, and introduce CTI’s newest innovations in peanut processing to farmers in Malawi. But we need your help to make it happen. Your donation today will improve lives in Senegal and around the globe. So, please GIVE!

Donate NowThere’s a common expression in Senegal, “Nio far,” which means “we are together.” We hope you will stick with CTI as we continue transforming lives in Senegal, in Nicaragua, and around the world. Nio far!

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Aliou Ndiaye, CTI Project Manager – Senegal

Aliou Ndiaye has many years of experience working with small farmers, Senegalese governmental organizations, international NGOs, and the private sector. He has worked as an advisor on agriculture and rural development with the Senegalese agencies SAED and ANCAR, training farmers to improve crop productivity, connecting them to the market and facilitate access to capital. Before joining CTI, Aliou worked as a Value Chain Manager for a USAID funded project focusing on sorghum and millet in Senegal. Aliou has a degree in Agricultural Engineering and a Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) at University Cheikh Anta Diop Dakar. Aliou is also a Geographic Information System specialist and has used this skill to gather important agricultural data throughout Senegal.

 

Published in Grain Processing

By Brianna Besch, CTI Intern-

Last month the Food and Agricultural Organization estimated that 850 million people on the planet are chronically hungry. The problem isn’t necessary lack of food—the world is growing more food than ever before—it’s that this food can’t be accessed by those most at risk of hunger: the rural poor, in particular, landless and smallholder farmers, who are not producing enough food to subsist. These farmers can’t compete in a global agricultural system stacked against them.

This is why CTI develops simple technologies that help farmers in the developing world overcome food insecurity. Our devices are designed specifically for the daily challenges small farmers face. They are efficient, affordable and culturally appropriate. Instead of encouraging farmers to grow more food, we help them keep the food they already have by reducing post-harvest processing losses.

Small developing world farmers are at a huge disadvantage in the global agricultural market. It started with the Green Revolution; the period in the 1960’s that promoted extensive deployment of chemical fertilizers, farm machinery and high-yielding varieties of grain. While many view this era as a great triumph (food production skyrocketed,) growing more food did not help feed the world’s poorest population—smallholder rural farmers. As production exploded and cheap, subsidized imports flooded developing world markets, grain prices plummeted. Smallholder farmers were unable to afford expensive inputs associated with high-yielding varieties, and using traditional production methods could not compete against large international agribusinesses. As a result, many farmers lost their land while others switched to cash crops, leaving them food insecure and deeper in poverty.

Increasing yields isn’t the only way increase food availability. Each year Sub-Saharan farmers lose $4 billion worth of grain in post-harvest processing. CTI works at a village level to harness this waste with simple, efficient, labor saving technologies.

One example is our newest set of grain processors. Farmers lose 15-50% of their grain in traditional processing methods:a mortar and pestle to remove grain from the stalk and separating grain from chaff in the wind. We created a stripper, thresher and winnower system for pearl millet, a highly nutritious traditional crop. These devices process grain ten-times faster than traditional methods, with less than 10% losses. During the testing phase, Oumar Sarr, from Senegal, described the system’s impact:

“I like the lack of yields lost in the process, the clean unbroken grain, but most importantly, what would take 10 women to do in an hour now takes 1 woman 10 minutes.”

Through a collaboration with the National Cooperative Business Association, we sent six of these systems to Senegal, and held trainings on them with rural villages last month.

While the problems of the world agricultural system are out of our hands, our work is one piece of a global solution to eradicating hunger. By focusing on post-harvest food capture, rather than highly technical yield increases, we are helping smallholder developing-world farmers compete when the deck is stacked against them.

Brianna is a senior Environmental Studies and Geography major at Macalester College, currently interning at CTI.

Published in Grain Processing

We are happy to report that we are now providing safe drinking water to more than 110,000 people in Nicaragua!

Chlorinator Installation

In the last year, CTI has more than doubled the number of people we are providing with a sustainable, community-run source of clean water. But our work’s not done yet. By this time next year, we want to double that number again, and then some. CTI has set the goal of proving a quarter of a million people with clean water by this time next year. We hope you will help us meet this ambitious target.

Recently, we surveyed the Nicaraguan communities that are using our water chlorination technology. Here’s what we learned:

  • The communities are maintaining their systems, with 81% reporting at least monthly cleaning and 90% reporting monthly visual inspection.
  •  The CTI Water Chlorinator is affordable. 93% of respondents “definitely agree” the price paid for the Water Chlorinators (about $100 USD) was worth the value created.
  •  Villages are healthier. 60% of respondents report ‘significant’ reductions in gastrointestinal illness, with another 24% reporting some reduction. The remaining 16% did not see beneficial reductions; some of which may be related to overall poor health practices.
  •  The villagers are happy. 82% would recommend the chlorinator ‘without reservation’ and 100% declare the system should be installed in every water system in Nicaragua.
Published in Central America
Friday, 30 September 2011

CTI Supporters Celebrate 30 Years

In September, over 150 volunteers, donors and partners gathered to celebrate CTI’s 30th anniversary at the White Bear Lake United Methodist Church. Thank you to the many volunteers that helped organize the celebration. To see photos from the event, check out the online photo gallery.
Published in St. Paul

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
Wednesday, 15 December 2010

An Open Mind and Heart

Written by  Andrea Brovold, Africa Co-Chair/Volunteer

One month ago, CTI volunteer, Andrea Brovold, and Executive Director, Roger Salway traveled to West Africa to share CTI’s new thresher and winnower prototypes with farmers in Mali and Senegal. While most of us were preparing food for our yearly Thanksgiving Day feast, Roger and Andrea were helping women in rural Senegal with their daily six hour ritual of threshing, winnowing, and grinding their family’s meal by hand. Here, Andrea shares her impressions from the trip that would test her physical and emotional limits, and leave her with unforgettable memories and lifelong friends.

Upon arrival to the Kuer Ali Guey village in the Kaolack region of Senegal, we were welcomed with open arms.  Awa, President of the Women’s Association said “Andrea, you look like you are a peaceful volunteer”.  It was the warm reception of Kuer Ali Guey and the surrounding villages and organizations from the very inception of this project that the rest of the trip would live up to, even surpass.  Come to think of it, while there were parameters in which we were expected to work towards, per NCBA/USAID along with objectives and outcomes to strive towards, my expectations–as per the opening title–were  “Going in with an open mind and heart”…and little more.

Quickly, I found that the universal language of love and compassion transcends any boundary or constraint, personal, professional or otherwise.  Put simply, the more you are willing to give of yourself, the more response and progress one will find.  Many village visits, meetings and relationships were forged due to our determination to serve.  And serve we did.  The thoughtful technologies of CTI, coupled with the sensitivity to cultural and individual differences, advanced this month long journey to a caliber of unexpected proportions.

 Some dialogue that we observed from various sources were “If you could visualize our interest, it would be as tall as a skyscraper!”, Ahmed Dame Cisse from Lat Mingue village; “You have a friend here…in me”, Dougal Guey in Kayemon village; and “C’est bon C’est bon C’est bon!”, a farmer from CARITAS. Most touching for me was a departure from a life-long friend I made despite the language barriers “I have left my heart with you”, said Therese, wife of CARITAS Geo-Scientist Renee with whom we dined at a Thanksgiving Feast to help us feel at “home” in their home.  Touching is the fact that each of these people are tickled by what our simple technologies can provide–a way and means for a better life–and touching is the fact that I have been blessed to have had the chance to help secure that opportunity.

Recently, at our December board meeting, I explained my obsession with taking photographs of doors. Each of us have had doors closed, only for others to be opened, and until CTI and pursuing my Masters in Development Policy with a concentration in Africa, it seems that there was a less definable period in my life.  Many “doors” and opportunities have been presented to me within this organization that I think so highly of, and I have been keen to act on those opportunities. Beyond that, I feel that it is my job to continue to open similar doors for the people CTI serves, those who are equally deserving, but without the ways or means. It is unconscionable to me to think that what CTI is able to provide will not be visible to most rural communities.  So I, like each of the equally passionate and eager volunteers at CTI, happily forge an exodus towards a goal of creating and supporting sustainable environments that will provide future generations with tools, education and kindred roots.

I had a lot of reflective moments during this trip, and I also blogged our adventures, seemingly because it would have been impossible to re-create most of these experiences after the fact.  But what resonates loudest in my mind are the moments that rendered me speechless (something that rarely happens).  It is these silent moments, personal exchanges, accepting smiles, joyous laughter and dancing that are impossible to prepare for, which allowed me to reflect most authentically and honestly that I am truly the most fortunate woman in the world.

We are called to do certain things in our lives, and it is what we do with that time that matters most.  Cliché perhaps, but I enjoy very much a quote I once heard, “In the end, it is not the amount of breaths you take it’s the moments that take your breath away.”

Published in West Africa

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

By Kathleen Graham, Africa Committee Volunteer  

Beneath enormous African skies the rolling mountainsides of far Western Kenya are lush green with the spring rains.  Tribes of farmers who eke out a living far off the tourist track anxiously watch the crops they planted in February – will the rain be enough, erasing droughts of recent years; or too much, drowning the beautifully emerging fields of maize, soya beans, sorghum, and ground nuts?  As I move around the area where a year ago I introduced Ewing grinders I am struck that these farmers’ concern for the impact of weather on their livelihood echoes precisely that of Minnesota farmers.  And there all notion of shared typicality ends.

Homa Bay farmers till and weed and harvest by hand.  They furrow their brows when asked about the last harvest, uniformly noting that adequate moisture is not enough, as they cannot afford fertilizer, the crop could be much better.  Their homes have neither electricity nor indoor plumbing, and most have packed dirt floors.  Water is carried in jerry cans from boreholes or rivers kilometers away.  The daily diet consists of the staple ugali, a baked corn flour concoction that supplies calories but inadequate nutrition.  And as if I needed further confirmation that life here is radically different from whence I came, retired teacher and training participant Fred Aloo introduces me to his family of twelve children and two wives, before we travel to meet his neighbor and this group’s coordinator, John Oyaya Ogutu, who has thirty children with his four wives.

I ignored the temptation to indulge my curiosity and delve into the fascinating back stories and instead focused on the reason I was lurching for hours over unpaved roads and paths in a vehicle loaned by the venerable crop research organization ICRISAT.  A year earlier I had accepted the invitation of ICRISAT’S resident Nairobi manager Richard Jones, to collaborate with a PhD agronomist from Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, Nasambu Okoko, to train representatives of several farmers’ groups chosen by Nasambu how to use the Ewing grinder.  I had six Ewing grinders, purchased by family and friends, stored in Kenya.  Richard and Nasambu were interested in adding value to the ground nut crop they had partnered to introduce to farmers’ groups in the Kisii/Homa Bay area.  A pilot project, to test the usefulness and acceptability of the grinder, and the potential for adding value to a bare crop, was born.

At the 2009 two-day training each participant learned to disassemble, assemble, and clean the Ewing grinders.  Each took a turn processing local crops – g-nuts, sorghum, finger millet, cow peas and “green gram,” learning to adjust the burrs so the final product would be just the right texture for local taste.  And each participant was tested – could s/he stand up and teach the teachers what s/he had learned??  All passed, some barely.  Would they be able to convey a few key Ewing principles to their farmer members?

I had returned for the real test.  How have the six grinders that were loaned to the participants’ groups been used?  Armed with a questionnaire that seeks answers to questions suggested by a dozen people over five years, each day I traveled 40, 50 even 70 kilometers off the paved road that runs from Homa Bay on the swampy shores of Lake Victoria to Kisii in the highlands, to drone through my evaluation form. I had no idea how remote their farms and groups actually were.

Richard, Nasambu and I had readily agreed on desired outcomes.  We were most interested in 1) improved nutrition, bolstering the ubiquitous daily starch with nuts and more nutritious grains and 2) income generation, either through product sales or service grinding.  We can document both outcomes, in at least some and sometimes all families, of all groups who had a representative attend the training workshop. In one group of 24, the Koga Farmers’ Self Help Group, in addition to the two men who act as leader/coordinators, eight of the “mothers” (twenty of the group members are women with children) are making nut paste and selling it. They use the profit for school fees for their children.

Each of the six groups is different, in terms of crops processed and rules for grinder use. Koga processes just ground nuts, and a little soy.  Most other groups have experimented widely, with soy, sorghum, finger millet, green gram, the “new” crop grain amaranth, and even dried butternut squash and broken rice.  Because the quantities of these “designer” flours are so small, they could not interest the commercial posho (corn) mills to process them, so the friendly-sized Ewing allows them to experiment with new ingredients.  Another difference – while Koga pays those who crank the grinder and those who carry the paste to market, at the Hekima Widows and Orphans Self Help Group, they organize volunteers to do all the roasting and cranking, and the group applies the profits to projects they devise, for example. to support local orphans.

For a ten year veteran of Ewing grinder work in East Africa, what is so impressive about this trip is the consistency of grinder use among the groups and the quality of maintenance of the grinders.  Never have all the grinders been so well cleaned, so well-cared for, so respected.  The growing dependency of the groups on the grinders is actually a little unnerving.  What if a part fails, like the group that sorrowfully produced a deformed helix?  What will happen to the growing nut paste business or the millet flour service grinding if the grinder is down for days or weeks?

The other joy of the trip is the visible pride with which group members present the “new” foods they have discovered, beyond the popular nut paste.   As a result of having the grinder available, and the communal interactions it has fostered, several groups make a nutritious porridge, using sorghum, finger millet, cassava, amaranth, soya beans, and a small amount of nut paste, flavored with citrus juice and sugar; others a soya beverage;  “finger rolls” from sorghum and millet; and cakes, a totally new item.  The warm cake we were proudly served by St. Florence SHG, which looked like a light gingerbread, had soya, grain amaranth, and g-nut paste.

Nasambu Okoko was so excited by the food experiments we saw that she vowed to create recipes and share them among the other farmers’ groups with whom she works.  Moving forward, these groups are now offered the opportunity to buy the grinders, for a discounted price, and that money will be used to furnish more grinders for more area farmers.  CTI will establish a “parts depot” at Mrs. Okoko’s office.  And by next year it is planned that all the groups will be asked to keep the detailed records to reflect volume, income and profit that some groups already have.

Small but significant inroads for 120 families off the end of the tarmac!  Replicate??  Volunteer!

Published in Kenya
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