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The millet harvest just ended in Senegal and families across the country are preparing for one of the busiest times of the year. In a few weeks, women and girls will gather to start processing their millet into edible grain. Usually, this is backbreaking work done almost entirely by hand. 

But this year, we’re delivering CTI's Pearl Millet Threshers to 150 villages in Senegal, and these communities are ushering in the millet season with singing, dancing, and celebrations. Last week our staff traveled by truck, by boat, and by horse to deliver a thresher to a small seaside community in Western Senegal. Members of this community had previously tested a prototype of the thresher and were grateful to see that that their input had influenced the thresher design.

 

“We are glad that you really listened to us and included our feedback in the thresher design. It’s really easy to turn the crank and we can see it’s producing high-quality grain,” Awa told our staff. “We’re looking forward to using the thresher to create an income for our community.” 

 
IMG 1808It would be difficult to overstate the importance of millet in Senegal, and the opportunities that this technology represents. Millet is the most widely grown crop in the country and it’s a vital source of nutrition for families. With access to CTI’s thresher, families can produce more food with less effort. Now, moms and their daughters will have more time to go to school, sell the
ir crops at market, and enjoy life. 

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be delivering threshers across the country. The thresher is now being built by a fabricator in Senegal, so farmers will have a place to turn to for repairs and spare parts. Local manufacturing means that expensive shipping costs are eliminated so more donor dollars go directly towards helping farmers and their communities. 
Published in blog

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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

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What does manufacturing have to do with hunger? The answer isn’t obvious at first glance. But at a family-run manufacturing company in the city of Thies (pronounced chess), we’re seeing the connection firsthand.

Senegal-based Pene et Fils (pronounced pen ay fees) is a small neighborhood shop managed by Mamadou Pene and his son, Saliou. Their focus is on building agricultural machines for processing cereals, including millet grinders, dehullers, and planters.

Their latest project? Producing 150 threshers for CTI—our largest order yet.

CTI first began working with P&F in 2014. Since then, our US-based engineers have been collaborating with P&F to figure out how to make our tools in-country. Now, P&F is working tirelessly to manufacture our first bulk order in Senegal.

So what does manufacturing have to do with hunger?

At CTI, we pride ourselves on collaborating with farmers throughout the design process. To sustainably tackle hunger on the other side of the world, it is just as important to work with local manufacturers.

Too often, technologies are dumped in communities without the necessary resources or knowledge for repairs. By partnering with P&F, we are building local expertise—a critical step towards sustainability. P&F are not only manufacturers. They are able to provide spare parts and can service tools if they break down in the field. They are helping to build distribution networks, to help get the tools into the hands of farmers. And by eliminating expensive shipping costs, local manufacturing also ensures that donors’ dollars go directly towards helping farmers and their communities.

Meanwhile, here in Minnesota, CTI is collaborating with Bühler’s Apprenticeship Academy. Using the drawings from P&F, the apprentices are assembling a replica of the thresher—so our engineers can test and refine the technology parallel to our partners in Senegal.

The 150 threshers made by P&F will be distributed by farmers’ organizations across Senegal, with the potential to impact tens of thousands of people. By working with P&F, we are manufacturing a path towards zero hunger—one thresher at a time.

Published in Thresher

WomensPlatform

Who makes sure the fridge is fully stocked? Who packs the kids’ lunch for school? Who does most of the cooking? Around the world, women are still doing the bulk of food prep. Nowhere is this more apparent than sub-Saharan Africa, where women contribute up to 80 percent of food production. This work is primarily done by hand—a process both laborious and time-consuming.

Women in countries like Senegal have limited access to tools that could reduce their labor and improve their productivity.

These women are in charge of food preparation for their families and communities. But the time- and labor-saving technologies women need are rarely developed with their input. Furthermore, women lack access to finances and other resources that would help them access new technologies.

To give women a seat at the table, CTI organized a national forum of women farmer leaders in Dakar, Senegal. The forum, which took place in August 2015, was attended by women leaders from across the country, investors, manufacturers, and government officials. Attendees discussed common challenges for women farmers, and opportunities for women to benefit from appropriate tools and training.

Published in West Africa

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After I had the privilege of interning with CTI last summer, I spent the 2015 fall semester studying international development in Senegal—where CTI's work has a profound impact. I saw this firsthand when I lived in Tattaguine, a small village 100 km southeast of Senegal's capital, Dakar.

In Tattaguine, the day's work began before sunrise, preparing livestock for pasture and breakfast for the family. Later, the women would begin preparation for the family's lunch and dinner—pounding several stalks of millet using the traditional mortar and pestle. The women would occasionally pause to sift through the grains. After meals, they cracked bowl after bowl of the family's peanut crop by hand.

Millet and peanuts are just two of the many crops grown by smallholding farmers in the region. Many families have their own small farms where they grow sorghum, beans, maize, and sometimes peppers and watermelons. My host family, the Ngom's, do the same: they rely on their crops for food and sell what is left.

Despite growing their own food, the Ngom's remain food insecure. This means that the family of 15 lacks nutritious choices, sometimes going without a meal. I spent my summer internship with CTI researching this phenomenon. At its core, hunger is often an economic problem where supply and demand interact—or in this case, fail to act—to provide enough nutritious food to all people. The supply side argument holds that production fails to meet the food needs of populations. The demand side argument claims the opposite: the failure to get enough food comes from high prices or inaccessibility at the market and a lack of income.

This has real consequences. To provide even an insufficient amount of food for her family, my host mother spent her entire afternoon preparing couscous for dinner. My host sisters would help out as well, sometimes needing to put off their homework to pound the millet. To have enough money for food, clothing, and other expenses, my host sisters' husbands worked miles away from home. They are only able to visit once per month at most.

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A related phenomenon is the mechanization of agriculture, which is any process by which food production and processing is done with the help of machines. Mechanization lessens workloads, boosts productivity, and permits faster, higher-quality, and larger-scale production and processing. More food is produced and kept out of harm's way, which increases supply. Sales from this increased supply, and improved capacity to sell throughout the year, increase incomes to bolster the demand side. Further, spillover effects of mechanization include decreasing rates of fertility and child labor, increasing market integration, employment, and resources and power for women.

This is what CTI does in Senegal. They are tackling hunger, one thresher at a time. Obstacles persist due to the remoteness of some communities, lack of education and knowledge, and the issue of financing so many machines (for CTI) and buying them (for some farmers), but the CTI model escapes some common pitfalls. For one thing, its manual machines are cheaper for farmers than other larger, bulkier options and forgo the use of expensive and unsustainable fossil fuels.

CTI hopes to extend its work with extension agencies like SAPPAT, my host organization in Tattaguine, to further the impact of its program in Senegal and eliminate hunger among Senegalese families. I am privileged first to have worked for two incredible organizations on two continents and second to connect both my experiences and the organizations' work in such tangible ways. Much work remains, but progress is surely being made, from the offices of St. Paul to the millet fields of the Sahel.

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Noah Nieting studies economics, African studies, and international development at Macalester College where he also runs the student-led international development group. He can be contacted at nnieting@macalester.edu.

 

 

 

Published in West Africa

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Last week marked the beginning of the 21st Session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21). More than 150 world leaders are convening in Paris with the ambitious goal of limiting global temperature change to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

So what’s at stake?

According to a recent report on global food security from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), climate change, extreme weather, and environmental degradation will be among the greatest threats to food availability during the next 10 years. Increasing food insecurity is predicted to hit Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia the hardest. As a result, scarce resources could lead to violence and instability.

Reducing global food loss and waste holds great potential for combatting both problems.

More than a third of all food produced on our planet never gets eaten. This has a major impact on climate change. If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases—behind only the United States and China. This waste is also exceedingly expensive. The direct cost of food waste is about US$750 billion annually, equivalent to the GDP of Switzerland.

Global food waste and loss is also a major driver of food insecurity. While research has invested heavily in improving yields and inputs, less than five percent of agricultural research is spent on reducing global food loss and waste. The introduction of better farming practices and access to seeds, fertilizer, and the like has boosted yields, but these gains are often undermined by the enormous waste of food due to spoilage, insect infestation, and other factors that occur after harvest. This needs to change. As stated in ODNI’s report, “Simply growing more food will not result in more food-secure countries.”

This is why CTI is committed to reducing postharvest loss. We design tools carefully tailored to meet the unique needs of small farmers—tools that enable small farmers to not only increase production, but to reduce loss and deliver high-quality food to market. And our tools are supported by comprehensive programs, because we recognize that tools are only one piece of the puzzle. In Senegal, for example, we are working with local manufacturers, distributors, and food purchasers to ensure that our technologies are available, affordable, and linked to business opportunities.

As outlined in the ODNI report, we need to invest in the necessary infrastructure, technology, and education to improve food access around the world. Global food security and climate change are inextricably linked—COP21 must address global food loss and waste if they hope to reach their goal.

You can read the full ODNI Global Food Security Assessment here.

Published in Post Harvest Losses

This year, CTI launched a pilot program to begin distributing our new grain tools in Senegal. We sold and delivered tools to more than 50 villages—improving millet production and strengthening food security for more than 12,000 people! We also spent time following up with the women using our tools (through discussions, formal surveys, and field tests) to learn how the tools were impacting women’s lives, and how we can improve our technology designs and services, to ensure farmers are realizing their maximum potential.

While feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, women asked us to make the thresher faster, more affordable, and easier for one person to operate. Our design team got to work, and today, we’re premiering our newest thresher design! Check out the video to see it in action!

And if you want to be a part of helping us deliver our new prototype to farmers, along with training, financial and business mentoring, you can click on the image below to make a donation, and your gift will be matched—today only!

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Published in West Africa
Wednesday, 06 August 2014

CTI sells out in Senegal!

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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

AliouMeghan Fleckenstein, CTI Communications Director

It’s 110 degrees and CTI’s team is being introduced to a rural village near Kaolack by our Senegal Program Manager, Aliou Ndiaye. Speaking in Wolof, the local language, Aliou addresses about two dozen villagers who’ve gathered to greet us under the shade of a large tree,

“For the past 10 years you have seen the same rate of yield in your pearl millet crop. You have good seed and good farming practices, but we cannot extend the land. We are here today look at how postharvest technologies can help feed your families. We can’t find the solution without you. We can’t improve our technology or help other farmers use it without you. So we have to make you work. We need you to tell us honestly how you feel about the technology, what you like and dislike, and how you think it can impact your village.”

A team of CTI staff and volunteers is in Senegal to work with our local partners on expanding the distribution and impact of our recently-launched Grain Tools. Over the past few weeks, CTI has delivered sets of tools (including a pearl millet stripper, thresher, winnower and grinder) to 15 villages in Senegal as part of a program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal of the project is to place the suites in different types of villages throughout Senegal and gather data on their use so we can focus our distribution efforts on reaching the communities that stand to benefit most from the tools.

Villagers Provide Feedback

The village we were visiting had recently received CTI’s tools and  we wanted to check in with the community to provide additional training and get their initial reaction. First, we spoke to the village women’s organization. While in Senegal, I learned that formal women’s organizations are very common in villages, and some communities even have more than one. They often run businesses and use their earnings to pay for school fees or to purchase things for the group.

Womens Group Leader

The president of the women’s organization, Ndeye Gueye, spoke on behalf of the group, “We are very happy about this technology. It is very useful. In the past we were using the mortar and pestle and now that we have this, we can reduce drudgery for women and save grain. This technology may be a small thing, but for us it is a big gift.”

Other community members—both men and women— gathered to offer advice for increasing the output of the technology and improving the grinder so it can process wet millet. The villagers also expressed how much they enjoyed using the grinder to make peanut butter and they hoped to earn money grinding for others. They explained that previously, the village had been using an expensive motorized grinder provided by another organization, but when the machine broke just two years after they received it, the women had to return to grinding their peanuts by hand. We hear this type of story far too often at CTI—money being spent providing communities with expensive, complicated machinery that rarely lasts more than a few years.

After spending more time with the community, as we prepared to leave, Aliou addressed the group a final time, and was clear and direct that our collaboration is a partnership that will require work and commitment on both sides. Aliou explained,

Village Leader

“We are very happy about this technology. Everything you see starts small and grows. We see this as just the beginning.” – Demba Aly Ba, Village Leader

“We came here to work together to find solutions for the whole nation. This is our proposal to you, but it is just a proposal. If you do not want to do this, we can go to another village. But if you want to use the technology and tell us how you honestly feel about it, then let’s get to work.”

At CTI, we never stop pushing ourselves to do better, to improve our process and our technologies, and we depend on communities to give their honest opinions rather than telling us what they think we want to hear. In Senegal, this has not been a problem. The women and men are smart, outspoken, and engaged.

Published in Grain Processing
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