Wednesday, 04 September 2013

Volunteers and Haitian students test shredder designs

Written by


Last year, two CTI volunteers, Larry Rauenhorst and myself, traveled to Haiti carrying two pieces of processing equipment: a shredder designed by CTI’s staff engineer and the latest iteration of a simple shredder that I had been working trying to perfect for several years. Larry and I set out to test and determine the reliability and usefulness of the equipment.

Through the years, CTI has partnered with Haitian organizations and people in an effort to help put Haitians to work processing an underutilized resource, a strange tropical fruit call breadfruit. The fruit grows on trees, mostly along the coast, are picked green (unripe), usually cut up, cooked and eaten like a vegetable. Much of the fruit simply rots and is wasted. CTI volunteers were asked if we could find ways of preserving breadfruit by shredding, drying and grinding breadfruit into shelf-stable flour, which could be made into useful products and help Haiti with better food security. Hand shredding of breadfruit is tedious, so enter myself and Larry, with our new shredders set to be tested.

We were hosted by the Agriculture College of the University of the Nouvelle GrandAnse in Jeremie, Haiti. While only about 100 miles from Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, reaching Jeremie took eight and a half hours over steep mountainous roads. The college provided us with three paid students, and together, we set out to process at least 2,000 pounds of breadfruit in fewer than ten work days.

Larry and I trained the students on processing the fruit to a stable, dry product. This entailed:

  • Cleaning the fruit and equipment river water that’s been disinfected
  • Each lot of ten fruit were weighed, peeled cored, shredded, and laid out to try (unusable peel and core were also weighed)
  • Shed samples were measured for thickness and length

The student teams processed 2,023 lbs of fresh breadfruit in eight days averaging 252.9 lbs per day. The amount of flour made from the ton of fresh breadfruit was 394 lbs.

How did the two shredders fare in the tests? The Mounir design worked wonderfully well and did almost all of the shredding. Red-faced Dave had to admit it was time to go back to the drawing board, make some important changes and perhaps shred another day.

What about the students? Did they continue to do what they had learned to do last year. You Betcha! The August issue of the college newsletter reports that two of the three students we worked with, Marie and Pierre, chose breadfruit processing as their required internship. During this summer alone they processed 215 dozen breadfruit or 6,450 lbs of fresh breadfruit. They now have three contracts with orphanages and schools in Port-au-Prince. They sell breadfruit flour for $2.00 (US) per 12 ounce bag plus shipping and handling. Package includes instructions, recipes and the story of how the breadfruit flour project developed.

Red face Dave, like Marie and Pierre, has learned from his experiences of last year. Previously I depended on others to test my shredder. For whatever reason I was not told of all the things that were wrong with it. I needed to discover those things myself. Stop in to CTI and see the Elton shredder I am now proud of.


David Elton

David has been a volunteer with CTI for many years, focusing on developing breadfruit shredding technologies.


On a recent trip to Senegal, our Executive Director Alexandra Spieldoch met some real life “superwomen” — women who are farmers, mothers, entrepreneurs, and community leaders. Here she is with Marie Mbaye, Coordinator of a collective of women pearl millet farmers and community leaders in rural Senegal. Empowering and supporting women, who do the bulk of post-harvest labor, will be an important part of our work as we introduce our pearl millet tools in Senegal.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

CTI awarded Feed the Future support!

Written by


Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation, a program funded by USAID and implemented by Fintrac Inc., s helping CTI launch our newest innovation: a suite of tools designed to help developing world farmers increase their production of pearl millet grain.

CTI has received a grant to invest in manufacturing, local marketing, and sales of the tools in Senegal. Establishing a business model for the equipment in West Africa will enable us to deliver the tools to the farmers who need them in a way that’s efficient and sustainable.

Partnering for Innovation is a USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) initiative that supports the commercialization of agricultural technologies that can help smallholder farmers increase their productivity and competitiveness. In addition to USAID’s support, we recently received a separate grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to conduct long-term evaluation and impact monitoring of the millet tools in rural villages.

New Innovation Saves Africa’s Grain

CTI’s pearl millet suite — which includes a manually-operated stripper, thresher, winnower, and grinder — significantly increases farmers’ grain yields while minimizing the drudgery and food losses that occur with traditional hand-processing methods. Pearl millet is a major food source throughout the developing world and tools that help farmers improve its production can greatly strengthen food security for the global poor.

While field testing the prototype equipment in West Africa, farmers were amazed to see real and relevant solutions to their daily struggles — tools that can help them feed their families, earn a better living and invest in their communities. In Senegal, we met Cheickeh Dame, a well-respected farmer who remarked,

“In my father’s generation, the introduction of fertilizers was the boom. Those that were not early adopters or that didn’t believe this would help are no longer here.

As soon as these technologies are made available, I will be the first in line.”

We met countless other farmers like Cheickeh, men and women who never asked for handouts, only opportunity, and with the launching of CTI’s pearl millet suite in Senegal, we will make sure they have it.





This article was originally published in CTI’s newsletter. Sign up now to receive monthly updates from CTI.


Villagers in rural Uganda are becoming small business owners as a result of a partnership between CTI and Village Enterprise (VE), a nonprofit that provides business skills training and support to entrepreneurs in some of the poorest regions of East Africa — in rural communities rarely served by microfinance groups.

In Uganda, VE distributes our grinders to small business groups, providing the groups with training and mentoring in business skills, savings and financial literacy. Recognizing that locals know their communities best, VE encourages the groups to develop their own business ideas. By empowering hard-working villagers with tools, training and support, the collaboration is helping those living in some of the world’s most underserved communities become thriving entrepreneurs.


Thursday, 30 May 2013

Gates Foundation Backs our “Bold Idea”

Written by


We are thrilled to announce that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded CTI a Grand Challenges Explorations Grant, an award that supports innovative and bold ideas that take on persistent health and development challenges. With backing from the Gates Foundation, CTI will deliver its new Pearl Millet Processing Tools to villages in rural Senegal for long-term evaluation and impact monitoring.

The award marks the culmination of years of effort developing a suite of tools that can significantly increase grain production in the most impoverished regions of the world.

Post-harvest grain loss is a major contributor to global hunger and poverty. Approximately $4 billion dollars of grain is lost after harvest in Sub-Saharan Africa every year—that’s equivalent to the entire amount of food aid sent to the region during the past decade.

CTI’s manually-operated pearl millet stripper, thresher, winnower and grinder can help farmers rapidly produce pearl millet grain with much less food waste. During field tests in Mali and Senegal, women and girls told us that the tools were a “blessing,” a “godsend” and an answer to their prayers. Now it’s time for us to gather scientific data about the wider economic and social impact that improved grain processing can have on a rural community. Precisely how much grain can communities save? How will women spend their freed time? We hope to answer these and other questions this fall, when we launch the tools in several rural Senegalese villages. Check our website for updates on our progress, and watch this video to see our tools in action.

Why Pearl Millet?

MilletPearl millet may just be the most important food crop you’ve never heard of. About 500 million people depend on this nutritious and drought-tolerant grain for their livelihoods. It’s a particularly important food source in West Africa, but it’s also notoriously difficult to process into edible grain. Traditionally, women and girls spend hours each day processing their pearl millet grain by breaking it apart in a mortar & pestle and winnowing it in the wind—an extremely wasteful practice. For these women, more efficient grain tools represent more than just additional food; they represent freedom from hours of daily drudgery and time to go to school, grow more crops or start a business—these tools are a major step towards profoundly improving lives.

We would like to thank the many volunteers, collaborators and donors that have supported our grain processing innovations, including the John P. and Eleanor R. Yackel Foundation, NCBA/CLUSA, and many more generous organizations and individuals!



This article was originally published in CTI’s newsletter. Sign up now to receive monthly updates from CTI.


If you’re reading this, you likely don’t have to worry that the water you drink today will make you too sick to go to work, or that it might kill your kids. This is largely because the introduction of water chlorination in the early 20th century virtually eliminated waterborne diseases in developed countries. Before we began using chlorine to treat our drinking water, thousands of US residents died every year from cholera, typhoid fever and dysentery.

Two years ago, CTI began helping communities in rural Nicaragua eliminate waterborne illness through chlorination–a solution that’s cheap, easy, and effective against most types of bacteria and viruses responsible for waterborne illness. We gathered a team of local organizations, health ministry officials and village volunteers, and working together, we’ve provided safe water for more than 150,000 people.

World Water Day

Today is International World Water Day: a day held annually on March 22 to recognize the importance of clean water, a day to focus attention on those who lack it, and—most importantly—World Water Day is a day to come together and DO SOMETHING about it.

We think everyone should have access to safe drinking water, especially children. But the reality is, 4,000 children will die today because of unsafe water, and no amount of reflection on World Water Day is going to change that, only action.

Will you to take action with us right now?

Will you join our efforts to bring safe water to 25,000 more Nicaraguans over the next four months? Since just one Water Chlorinator provides safe water for an entire community, a little money goes a long way:

  • A donation of $50 funds safe water for five families
  • A donation of $150 can deliver a water chlorination system to a village of 1,000 people

Your investment will improve lives for generations to come.

Donate Now 

Thank you to our water supporters!

With support from individuals, Nicaraguan communities, foundations and corporations, together we’ve helped more than 65,000 people gain sustainable sources of safe water in the last year. We want to thank the following organizations for their collaboration and generous support:

  • Pentair Foundation
  • Project Redwood
  • EOS International
  • Self Help International
  • Unity Avenue Foundation
  • Hudson Daybreak Rotary
  • Minneapolis City of Lakes Rotary Club
  • Rotary Club of New Brighton/Mounds View
  • New Richmond Rotary Club
  • Rotary Club of Rice Lake
  • St. Croix Valley Rotaract
  • Rotary Club of St. Paul
  • St. Paul Sunrise Rotary Club
  • Siren/Webster Rotary Club
  • Rotary Club of South Saint Paul




This article was originally published in CTI’s newsletter. Sign up now to receive monthly updates from CTI.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

CTI field tests water filtration system

Written by

The fact that unsafe water kills more people each year than all forms of violence (including war) is appalling. But the fact that there are plenty of affordable and effective water treatment solutions makes these deaths a tragedy.

One of the challenges of eradicating waterborne illness in the developing world is that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. What works well in one community isn’t going to be appropriate in another. Take CTI’s water chlorinator, for instance. Our chlorinator is designed to provide safe water for a community; it attaches to a gravity-fed water source that an entire village obtains its water from, like a water tank. In Nicaragua, where community water tanks are common, CTI Water Chlorinators provide safe water to over 150,000 people. But there are many parts of the world where families obtain water from less centralized sources, like nearby streams or lakes. For these families, CTI’s Water Chlorinator isn’t going to be much help.

In search of a small-scale water solution

To help individual families treat their water, CTI is exploring a smaller-scale water filtration system that can provide safe water for 8-10 people and meet the following criteria:

  • Affordable
  • Portable
  • Does not require electricity
  • Must produce safe drinking water within 2 hours
  • Must produce a minimum of 15 gallons per day
  • Must be certified as to its efficacy against waterborne pathogens
  •  Must be easy to clean

We aren’t seeking to reinvent the wheel, so CTI’s water team has researched numerous technologies on the market that either meet the above criteria, or can be adapted. We’ve narrowed our focus on the Sawyer Water filter. We like the filter because it’s very affordable and it works exceptionally. Like most water treatment technologies, the filter does require occasional cleaning. Without cleaning, the water’s flow rate begins to decrease over time as the filter collects contaminates. In order to make the system easier for families to clean, we’ve permanently connected a backflush device that returns the filter to its optimal flow rate.

Testing Water Filter in Nicaragua

Testing in Nicaragua

Testing Water Filter in Senegal

Testing in Senegal

Field Testing in Senegal and Nicaragua

Two Prototype units are currently being field tested in Nicaragua and Senegal for flow capacity and ease of use. Thus far, feedback on performance has been consistently excellent. Users have reported the prototypes are effective, intuitive to use, and their rate of output is quite satisfactory. If the initial field tests continue to go well, CTI will likely explore wider distribution of the systems.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Coffee workers gain safe water in Nicaragua

Written by
Siblings do the washing at Acopia San Francisco Uca, a major coffee plantation and wholesaler in Nicaragua. Behind them, community members build a CTI water chlorinator.

Siblings do the washing at Acopia San Francisco Uca, a major coffee plantation and wholesaler in Nicaragua. Behind them, community members build a CTI water chlorinator.

In rural Nicaragua, seasonal workers and their families travel long distances to work on coffee, corn and cocoa plantations for months at a time. The money they earn during this period is essential to their families’ welfare, but the lack of safe drinking water at plantations often causes serious illness—preventing seasonal workers from going to work and devastating families.

Access to safe water not only improves community health, it increases incomes too. In fact, every $1 invested in improved water and sanitation yields an average of $4-12 for the local economy.

Because communities ability to earn money is so dependent on safe water, many plantations in Nicaragua are installing CTI’s Water Chlorinator. We are currently providing safe water to more than 12,000 seasonal workers in Nicaragua. With access to safe water, parents can earn wages, kids can attend school, and families in general have better lives.

Thursday, 07 February 2013

5 surprising facts about poverty you need to know

Written by


1) The hungriest people grow food for a living

Global hunger and poverty are largely a rural phenomenon. 70% of the developing world’s extremely poor people are in rural communities and work in agriculture. Developing world farmers rarely have access to electricity or fuel, so they must plant, harvest and process their crops by hand. They barely produce enough food to survive, which is why they’re often referred to as “subsistence farmers.”

2) We’re growing plenty of food

We are currently growing enough food to feed everyone in the world, but roughly 1/3 of the food produced for human consumption gets lost or wasted. By losing so much food, we are missing an opportunity to feed our world’s growing population.

In many African countries, at least 25% of the total cereal crop is lost after harvest, usually due to a lack of storage and efficient post-harvest processing technologies. Our Executive Director, Roger Salway, is in Senegal meeting with farmers that have received our new Grain Processing Suite: a manually-operated stripper, thresher and winnower captures more than 90% of pearl millet grain at a rate 10x faster than traditional processing methods. Check out our blog for more on Roger’s journey.

3)   Dirty water exacerbates poverty

Clean water has a direct tie to a community’s economic wellbeing. Every $1 invested in improved water and sanitation yields an average of $4 – $12 for the local economy.

In rural Nicaragua, we help villages install our Water Chlorinator—an inexpensive device that produces safe water for an entire village for just pennies per day. The project is saving lives, helping kids go back to school and allowing parents to return to work. We are providing safe water for 135,000 in Nicaragua, and we plan to double our impact by the summer of 2014.

4) We already know how to fix it

Investing in agriculture is, hands down, the most effective method of reducing poverty. Growth in agriculture is 2x more effective at reducing poverty than any other type of development effort.

Unfortunately, our investment in agriculture is declining. USAID allocates just 5% of funds to agricultural programs, and globally, less than 6% of official development assistance supports agriculture (down from 17% in 1982).

5)   Poverty is declining, and we can be the generation that eliminates it

Global poverty isn’t inevitable—it’s dropping in every region of the developing world. In 1990, 43% of people in the developing world lived on less than $1.25 per day—today, it’s only 22%—meaning nearly a billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty in the past 20 years.


We have an opportunity to build on this historic progress.


Visit our website right now, and invest $10 in the fight to erase poverty for good.


Donate Now


$10 is the amount of money the average American throws away in uneaten food every week. It may not be much money to us, but $10 can go a long way in the developing world. So let’s put that $10 to good use!




This article was originally published in CTI’s newsletter. Sign up now to receive monthly updates from CTI.

Pearl Millet WinnowerDid you know that at least 25% of the grain produced in Africa is lost after harvest? CTI is on a mission to help Africa save its grain.

Our Executive Director, Roger Salway, has just arrived in Senegal where he’ll visit the first recipients of CTI’s new Grain Processing Suite: a manually-operated stripper, thresher and winnower that help farmers capture more than 90% of their pearl millet grain at a rate 10x faster than traditional processing methods. Our partners at the National Business Cooperative Association have distributed the suites to six communities in Senegal as part of a Farmer-to-Farmer program funded by USAID.

Many of the pearl millet growers Roger will visit are the same farmers who tested and evaluated early prototypes of the grain tools. During those field trials, the farmers were enthusiastic about the equipment, which they saw as an opportunity for a better future. At a demonstration with a rural village in November 2011, pearl millet farmer Ndiayne Keur spoke up,

“80-90% of the families depend on traditional methods to process, if technology like this were made available, a whole region could benefit, let’s be honest this is a survival tool.”

The prototypes received unanimous approval from farmers during field tests, so we are anxious to learn more about how the completed designs have been received.


Teff is so small, the seends are less than 1 mm in diameter

Roger will also visit fonio farmers in Senegal to learn more about their post-harvest processing practices. Fonio is a small-seeded grain that grows throughout West Africa. Many researchers are beginning to encourage farmers to grow more traditional crops like fonio because they are better adapted to local climates, and are often much more nutritious than wheat or corn. But many traditional grains like fonio or teff—which is native to Ethiopia—are also exceptionally small (see photo), which makes them very difficult for farmers to process by hand.

CTI has been asked by several farmers and organizations to explore whether we can help reduce the drudgery and waste associated with the traditional processing of small-seeded grains. So we are beginning our research where we always start, by talking to farmers directly.