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

In July, CTI had the pleasure of hosting a visitor from Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), one of Africa’s leading agricultural schools. Dr. Yasinta Muzanila, Senior Lecturer and Dean of Faculty of Science, traveled to CTI headquarters to collaborate on a McKnight grant proposal focusing on Southern Africa. 

During her visit, Yasinta described the significant impact she could see CTI technology having on the lives of those in rural Tanzania and Malawi: 

“I’m looking forward to working with CTI and on the project…We think CTI technology will be good to assist rural people to try to reduce the workload-especially on the women. The women back home do most of the work; they use primitive ways of processing like mortar and pestle. They work for five hours to get enough flour for food. If they have a grinder, they might have more time for other activities.”

Yasinta is from Morogoro, a college town of some 220,000 residents and the center of agriculture in the region. As Yasinta describes it, daily life in Morogoro does not sound too far from that of a typical American city. At the end of the work day, many Tanzanians participate in a routine that echoes the American “happy hour” tradition. At about 3:30 in the afternoon, when the workday has ended (work typically starts at 7:30 am), workers often gather at the bar for beer and roasted meat, called Nyama Choma. On the weekend, young people typically meet at centers of discourse or attend concerts. Music is an important part of the culture of Morogoro. The city has generated several influential jazz musicians and its strong musical tradition continues to this day. 

During Yasinta’s first visit to the United States, CTI staff and volunteers did their best to welcome her with a bit of the famous “Minnesota nice”. CTI staff and Yasinta were treated to tours by General Mills and the University of Minnesota’s Department of Food Sciences and Nutrition. On her last day with CTI, when asked of her impression of Americans, Yasinta said, “The people are very good. Everyone I’ve met here is very friendly. I don’t feel homesick. Everyone is very friendly and everyone takes good care of me.”  By the end of Yasinta’s trip, there was a consensus among the CTI community: regardless McKnight’s final decision, CTI’s collaboration with Sokoine University has yielded a valuable partnership and a strong friendship.

Published in East Africa
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Iringa (Tanzania) Festival

In the recent past, one of the main destinations of our Omega VI grinder has been the Iringa area of Tanzania. The conduit for this distribution has been the St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. In the past two years over 20 Omegas have been hand carried to Iringa by this group of dedicated missionaries. Most recently, a group from Our Saviour’s Lutheran in Hastings, MN took seven Omegas for distribution to various preaching points in the region.

On Saturday, November 1st, 2008, the St. Paul Area Synod held an Iringa Festival which brought together the Synod leadership on this project together with the Bishop from Iringa and his leaders. CTI was pleased to support this Festival with an informational booth. We premiered the new video, “This is CTI,” along with grinding demonstrations and other displays. CTI was ably represented by volunteers Jim Sentz, Ralph Thrane and Board member Kathy Junek.

Despite a busy schedule of events, CTI was able to renew many previous associations and to make new contacts. The telling of the CTI story was a key component of our presentations. For those who had heard it before, it reinforced our message; for those hearing it for the first time, we were able to spark an understanding of CTI’s mission and how it meshed with that of the St. Paul Area Synod’s.

Published in East Africa