When I met Astou, a young woman from a rural village in Senegal, West Africa, she told me she wasn’t interested in the future that had been laid out for her. The man who wants to marry her, she told me, “wants me to spend my day pounding a mortar and pestle.” In Astou’s village, and throughout much of the developing world, women and girls still rely on rudimentary tools like a mortar and pestle to thresh and grind their grain. The work is long and exhausting, and in the end, much of their harvest is blown away in the wind or dropped in the dirt.
Astou is the head of a women’s organization in her community. She’s smart, ambitious, and determined to build a future for herself that doesn’t include working in the fields from dawn until dusk and having to choose between pulling her children out of school to work or risk the family going hungry. Like so many of the women I’ve met in the developing world, Astou isn’t settling for poverty. She hasn’t given up on the idea that she can have a better future—and neither have we.
I was in Astou’s village last December field testing CTI’s new grain processing tools with pearl millet farmers. We knew from preliminary trials that the tools could nearly double farmers’ yields and increase their efficiency tenfold. But we also knew that we couldn’t call our new grain tools a success until they’d been approved by the farmers they were designed for.
The farmers in Senegal were overjoyed when they saw what our tools can do. Women told us that access to more efficient farming tools mean much more than additional food and time, it means the opportunity to increase their incomes, send their kids to school and start businesses—the opportunity for a better future.
Compassionate and thoughtful engineering can provide real pathways out of hunger and poverty. Just as those of us living in wealthy countries have benefited from innovations in science, agriculture and technology, I believe that we can do profound good when we use our skills and knowledge to give developing world communities a hand up.
For more than thirty years, CTI has been providing practical tools that give impoverished communities the chance to overcome their food and water challenges. In 2012, we’ve given thousands of Nicaraguans sustainable sources of safe water, we’ve empowered farmers with post-harvest tools that help them raise their standard of living, and we’ve developed several exciting new technologies that we believe will radically transform lives.
I invite you to join us and support our mission to innovate for the greater good. Because while innovation alone can change our world, only innovation paired with compassion can save our world.
Roger Salway, CTI Executive Director
This letter was originally published in CTI’s 2012 Annual Report. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to receive a copy of the Annual Report.