Monday, 15 September 2008

CTI Expands Work in Mali

CTI activity in Mali, West Africa, is on the rise. As a result of the recommendation from Dr. Jeff Wilson, USDA pearl millet geneticist and USAID-funded INTSORMIL collaborator based in Georgia (US), ICRISAT has incorporated CTI into its Gates Foundation grant to improve the yields and profitability of rainfed cereals, especially pearl millet and sorghum, in West Africa with special emphasis on empowering women. This is a natural fit given ICRISAT’s focus on pre-harvest production improvements and CTI’s expertise in post-harvest food processing technologies (a role primarily played by women in Africa). Dr. Camille George, University of St. Thomas School of Engineering faculty member and CTI Board member, visited Mali in early summer to discuss the project first-hand with ICRISAT scientist Eva Weltzien and observe village-level millet threshing.

Based on positive peer review of CTI’s pearl millet threshing-cleaning design options by Dr. Wilson last spring as well as further tests currently underway by Dr. Lloyd Rooney at Texas A&M, CTI expects to conduct rigorous and participatory field tests of advanced prototypes, built by Ohio-based and new CTI partner Battelle Institute, in Mali in early 2009 with ICRISAT, Malian colleagues and local farmers. According to international millet scientists, CTI is emerging as the leader in developing post-harvest solutions for pearl millet.

CTI’s work in West Africa started several years ago in Mali, a land-locked country typical of the semi-arid tropical Sahelian zone immediately south of the Sahara and home to Timbuktu. Activity began with the introduction and field testing of CTI’s hand-powered peanut-grain grinders, thanks to collaboration with Iowa-based NGO Medicine for Mali (M4M). M4M distributed grinders as a revenue-generating service in eight villages. Despite occasional glitches, women users have validated the CTI mechanical grinder which they say produces a superior creamy peanut paste with less effort and in much less time compared to the traditional mortar-and-pestle system. It has also been shown to successfully grind other staple food crops in Mali such as millet, sorghum and cowpeas. Grinders are also being evaluated by colleagues at the Ag School, thanks to Belco Tamboura.

Published in West Africa

Board member Camille George traveled to Mali last month to explore several projects that could utilize technologies developed by CTI. Working with Aissata Thera, a senior scientist at the Institute Economique Rurale, IER, (the Malian equivalent of the USDA) and Sidy Ba, a hydraulics professor at the Institute Polytechnic Rurale, IPR, (University of Bamako’s Institute of Agriculture), the simple pearl millet hand-stripping device developed by CTI volunteers Don Kuether, Erv Lentz and Rolfe Leary was demonstrated in two Malian villages. The women were genuinely interested in the simple time saving device and offered many constructive comments to help develop an even better design.

Camille also met with Dr. Eva Weltzien, Principal Investigator for ICRISAT. Dr. Weltzien is interested in developing new varieties of pearl millet and sorghum and in increasing the consumption of locally produced grains in Mali’s urban areas. Collaboration between ICRISAT/ Mali, IER, IPR, CTI and the University of St. Thomas’ Chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World, UST-ESW, is currently being explored.

A second project explored the possibility of growing seed potatoes in Mali. At this time, Mali imports all of its seed potatoes from Europe. IER will try CTI’s evaporative cooling potato storage technology this winter to store several varieties of seed potatoes through their dormant period. Growing seed potatoes would greatly increase Mali’s food security.

Published in West Africa
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