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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.


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.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Can peanut farmers crack global poverty?

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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.

Noah blog 1

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.

Noah blog 2

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.

Noah headshot

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




Monday, 14 December 2015

CTI publishes Design Innovation Path

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CTI’s newly published Design Innovation Path (DIP) is here!

In 2014, we worked with international consultant, Marius Quintana, to design a methodology for CTI’s research and development. Our DIP is the basis for CTI’s current and future research, putting small farmers’ needs at the center.

We start with an understanding of what small farmers, particularly women, are experiencing in relation to post-harvest activities and food processing. We explore ways in which CTI might be able to help. From there, we work with small farmers to create effective design and to insure our tools are available, affordable, accessible and valuable to them.

“Excellence must be achieved through the eyes of those who judge us; once achieved it can only be maintained with constant innovation.” (Tom Collins, Author, Entrepreneur, Epicurean)

You can read the Design Innovation Path in full here.

2010- senegal pm

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.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Turning Hunger Into Hope

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For more than 30 years, CTI has provided simple tools to empower small farmers to overcome hunger and rise from poverty.

We are so proud to talk about our impact using one of our longest-standing technologies, the Ewing grinder, which supports small-scale food processing around the world. For women in developing countries, grinding crops into edible food is a daily struggle. Using the traditional mortar and pestle, women and girls can spend hours preparing food each day. The process is grueling and time-consuming—limiting the amount of food families can produce.

With CTI’s hand-operated grinder, women can make flour or nut butter in minutes. With this increased productivity, women have time for other important pursuits—such as continuing education or starting a business—allowing them to increase their economic opportunity, strengthen their leadership, and greatly improve their social status in their community.

Over the last 20 years, we’ve shipped our grinders to more than 40 countries. Here's what we have heard from our customers in Haiti:

We are helping farmers produce high-quality, processed products that contribute to health and nutrition.

In Haiti, Love a Child purchased a CTI grinder to help Sonja start a business selling Moringa powder. Sonja dries the nutrient-rich leaves in a solar dryer and grinds the dried leaves into powder. She sells the powder to Love a Child’s nutrition clinic, where nurses distribute it to pregnant and nursing mothers and malnourished children.

“The number of severe malnutrition cases has dropped from 130 per day to less than 4 [cases] in the community,” reported Mike Sullivan, Love a Child’s Development and Sustainability Coordinator.

We are increasing economic opportunity for small farmers and their families.

“Selling peanuts in the shell has a very low profit margin. Especially when the farmers owe a percentage of the income to their landowner,” explained Peter Johnson of Seeds of Support: Mission Haiti. Seeds of Support is a ministry of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota in partnership with Redeemer Lutheran Church in Pasquette, Haiti. “However, grinding roasted peanuts into peanut butter and selling it at local hotels and restaurants creates a higher income for the farmers and their families.”

What does this mean for the people of Pasquette? Affordable education. Because of cost, only one or two children in [each] family have the opportunity to go to school. A greater income from peanut butter means more schooling opportunities for more children—and education brings a brighter future.”

We are empowering women—responsible for the majority of food preparation within their communities.

With the help of Haitian nonprofit Sonje Ayiti, RAFAVAL—a women’s group in the town of Limonade, Haiti—received a CTI grinder for their business making chocolate for hot cocoa. When presented with the grinder, the women were thrilled that they would no longer have to travel to pay someone to grind their cocoa—saving them time and money.

Gabrielle Vincent, Country Director for Sonje Ayiti, told us, “RAFAVAL will be making hot cocoa to distribute at makeshift shelters in Limonade and will use this new tool to make more hot cocoa to sell locally. This is not relief, but development and empowerment.”

With simple—yet meaningful—contributions, we can help small farmers improve nutrition. Start businesses. Earn higher incomes. Become leaders in their communities. And we can end hunger in our lifetime.


The global community is increasingly recognizing gender inequality – and its implications for food security – as a critical issue to understand and address.

Women make up an estimated 43 percent of the global agricultural workforce, yet they receive only a fraction of the resources ­– seeds, land, access to markets, agricultural training – compared to men.

Understanding why this gender gap exists is crucial to reversing it – and boosting global food and nutrition security in the process.

In a report conducted by MAIZE, a CGIAR Research Program, researchers examined how household gender dynamics affect women’s demand for, and adoption of, mechanization. The report studied four sites across Kenya and Ethiopia, observing significant differences in norms and values in how agricultural labor is gendered and governed.

A gendered division of labor was apparent across all four sites, with women often experiencing chronic time poverty and exhaustion as a result. Women are responsible for several highly labor-intensive tasks, including tillage, post-harvest management, and transport of produce. All responsibility for reproductive labor—such as childcare and water/fuel collection—rests on women as well.

These responsibilities limit women’s opportunities outside of the home, such as business training or education.

CTI seeks to overcome these barriers by working with women as co-designers, utilizing participatory research to ensure our tools make sense to rural women farmers. The tools are designed, field tested, and modified in direct collaboration with women smallholders. This was one of the key recommendations of the MAIZE report – that women are involved in the design process to ensure mechanized technologies reflect their unique priorities and constraints.

Providing women a dramatic boost in productivity, these technologies allow valuable time for women to create businesses and access new markets – helping women strengthen their leadership within the community and improving the standard of living for entire villages.

The MAIZE report emphasizes that mechanization alone will not change gender roles overnight. Within male-headed households, for example, men still determine whether or not labor-saving methods will be used. For organizations such as CTI, understanding these cultural norms is crucial to ensure technologies and services are accepted and adopted by communities.

You can read more about CTI’s approach here.

World Bank Sites

Rural farmers—women in particular—often aren’t aware of, or don’t have access to, time- and labor-saving agricultural innovations.

The World Bank’s West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP) is working to counteract this by organizing workshops to educate women on new technologies—developed with WAAPP’s support—and to encourage their participation and adoption of the tools.

A ten-year program aimed at developing and distributing emerging technologies, the WAAPP brings together a wide range of value chain actors to help farmers not only access technologies, but successfully adopt them to improve productivity, increase incomes, and create business opportunities.

Workshops took place from July 20 through July 24 across Senegal—in Kaolack, Kaffrine, Diourbel, and Thies. At each workshop, World Bank project staff presented a variety of technologies, including new varieties of cereals, soil fertility management systems, and CTI’s thresher and grinder. After the presentation, farmers asked questions—primarily on how to access the technologies and how they would improve their livelihoods.

Aside from World Bank project staff, attendees included CTI, agricultural extension agency ANCAR, the Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research (ISRA), local authorities, buyers, and government officials. By including representatives across the value chain, the workshops fostered collaboration among actors that are typically siloed. More importantly, the workshops allowed farmers to access all of these resources in one place. The workshops also provided an opportunity to present solutions to women farmers and actively ask how we can serve them better.

There is a growing demand for millet in Senegal—and small farmers have the opportunity to cash in, if they are able to produce quality grain in volume. For example, one of the buyers who presented in Thies was Mamelles Jaboot, a Senegalese family-run business which specializes in the production of yogurt and local cereals, primarily millet.

With access to more efficient, mechanized farming tools—and the necessary knowledge and resources—women have the opportunity to capitalize on this demand and access new markets for increased incomes.

MINSA certification

“The greatest ideas are the simplest.”

Our Water Chlorinator is one of CTI’s greatest success stories — and one of our simplest designs, made of inexpensive PVC pipes and chlorine tablets. Today, our Chlorinators are providing more than 330,000 Nicaraguans in over 600 rural villages with safe drinking water for just pennies per day.

In July 2015, the Chlorinator reached another milestone.

Dr. Carlos Saenz Torres, the Director of Public Health of the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (MINSA) certified our Water Chlorinator as effective in eliminating fecal contamination in drinking water and providing water safe for human consumption.

CTI has worked closely with MINSA for years, but primarily with the local, municipality-level branches — providing water treatment installations in areas MINSA identifies as high-risk and assisting with various public health initiatives. While MINSA provides critical public health services at the municipality level, the national-level MINSA Central is the regulatory agency.

Despite our established partnership with the municipal branches, communities were frequently asking us, “Is this device certified by MINSA Central?” We listened to their concerns — the new certification comes directly from MINSA’s national office in Managua.

What does this mean for CTI?

“As a recognized and well-respected authority, MINSA’s certification adds credibility to our Water Chlorinator and our work in Nicaragua,” explained CTI Program Director Wes Meier. “This gives us greater opportunities to expand our reach, establish new partnerships, and provide more Nicaraguans with safe drinking water.”

Thanks to this simple technology supported by an effective program, CTI plans to reach 500,000 Nicaraguans with safe drinking water by 2018.