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Peanuts—also known as groundnuts—are a nutritious crop with immense untapped potential to improve food security, nutrition, and economic well-being in Africa. In Malawi, peanuts are widely cultivated by smallholder farmers in rural communities, where women perform labor-intensive harvest and postharvest operations by hand.

As a valuable cash crop, increasing the production and sale of groundnuts could greatly improve the lives of farmers and their communities. But without proper tools, groundnut growers face huge obstacles bringing their crop from field to market.

CTI interviewed hundreds of families about the challenges they face producing groundnuts. Across communities, farmers consistently expressed frustration with harvesting, stripping, and shelling groundnuts—operations that are typically performed by hand and primarily by women.

In response to the self-identified needs of the farmers, CTI has designed affordable, manually-operated groundnut processing tools.

CTI’s groundnut tools dramatically increase farmers’ productivity, improve the quality of their peanuts, and reduce women’s labor. The prototypes dig and lift peanuts from the ground (harvesting), strip peanut pods from the plant, and shell the nuts.

CTI’s groundnut tools allow smallholder farmers to:

  • Process groundnuts 9x more efficiently than current methods
  • Increase the value and quality of their crop by reducing the frequency of broken kernels
  • Earn higher incomes by growing, processing, and selling more nuts in higher-end markets
  • Allow more time for women to pursue entrepreneurial, revenue-generating activities
  • Strengthen food security as a result of increased incomes and production rates

We are working with local manufacturers to fabricate the groundnut technologies in Malawi. We are collaborating with farmer organizations throughout the country to introduce our peanut tools to farmer leaders and women’s organizations. We provide tools, training and ongoing support, while the farmer groups cover the material costs of the peanut equipment through loans or savings. As we monitor their progress, we’re learning about the most effective models for farmers to purchase the equipment and earn a return on their investment – valuable information which will help us scale the tools in Malawi and throughout the region. 

Increasing Senegal's Harvest with CTI's Grain Thresher

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CTI's grain thresher is a hand-operated technology designed to help pearl millet farmers increase their yields and their incomes.

Pearl millet is a nutritious cereal grain that grows in some of Africa’s most famine-prone regions, producing reliable yields in dry, hot climates with poor soil quality. 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, its production and market potential are limited by traditional processing methods and a lack of access to improved technologies.

Agricultural mechanization is a key component of rural development, capable of reducing the processing time, drudgery, and food waste associated with traditional methods.

Our thresher is an affordable, three-in-one tool that significantly increases farmers’ yields in a fraction of the processing time.

CTI’s thresher strips, threshes, and winnows grain in a process that:

  • Produces high-quality, clean grain free of dirt and debris
  • Produces grain 5x faster than traditional methods
  • Captures more than 90% of farmers’ grain 

The thresher also provides farmers and entrepreneurs an opportunity to earn money renting out use of the tool. In the pilot product launch, CTI introduced the idea of selling threshing services to neighbors, letting each entrepreneur select an appropriate service for their community. Upon returning to the communities, CTI was pleased to learn this fee-for-service model has been effective among most of the communities.

CTI is partnering with Senegal’s agricultural extension agency ANCAR to distribute the thresher to farmers' organizations throughout the country and to establish permanent manufacturing and distribution partners in Senegal. 


ProgramsSince 1981, our programs have connected smallholder farmers with CTI technologies to increase food and water security, raise incomes, and improve livelihoods. We partner with communities directly, collaborating with local farmers to design and distribute our tools. CTI also partners with individuals, nonprofits, and universities, particularly those that have well-established relationships with local communities.

Together, we help smallholder farmers and their communities to:

  • Improve production of high-quality, nutritious food
  • Reduce drudgery
  • Increase yields
  • Access safe drinking water
  • Become entrepreneurs

NicaraguaEmpowering Nicaragua with safe water
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SenegalIncreasing grain yields in Senegal
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rsz dsc01414Improving groundnut production and child nutrition in Malawi
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Compatible Technology International (CTI) is a nonprofit that designs and distributes innovative tools that help families in the developing world rise above hunger and poverty.

InterviewHow do we work?

First, we listen. Using a human centered approach, we start by talking with farmers, many of whom are women, to understand their concerns, their needs and their culture. Once we have a good understanding of their post-harvest needs, we research existing solutions and develop new prototypes in collaboration with communities in the developing world. New innovations are first launched in a pilot program, where we assess the effectiveness of a new tool, research its potential impact, and develop a distribution plan.

We know collaboration is key. Our work doesn’t just happen in the shop. We take our innovations forward through regional distribution centers at our US headquarters and in Africa. Recognizing that ‘give-aways’ are largely ineffective, we are committed to providing tools at an affordable price and we work closely with in-country partners who manufacture our tools and provide financing and business training to local communities.  

How do we measure impact?

We measure and evaluate our approach by monitoring our design process, the social and economic impact of our tools and our method of distribution. We measure a number of indicators, to fully understand and improve the impact of our tools, including: food quality and yield; time spent processing and preparing food; household food security, nutrition, and income generated.