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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.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Pearl Millet Thresher Update

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We are exited to bring everyone up to date on the recent advances in our threshing program. Since last we reported, our Leary Thresher has logged many miles and seen many a millet seed. Here is what has happened…

In late October, Erv Lentz sent our thresher, and then followed it to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) test site in Tifton, GA for field trials. At Tifton, USDA scientist Dr. Jeff Wilson and his team put Erv and the thresher through a series of tests designed to establish its productivity and the quality of the product it produced. We were also interested in determining the ergonomics of the design and the robustness of its construction. Over the course of several days, Dr. Wilson determined that our design was good, but had some durability and ergonomic issues needed to be resolved.  He also established that while the rate of production was acceptable, he had some concerns with the quality of the seeds (percentage of broken seeds) winnowed.  It is not well understood what is an acceptable level of broken seeds in rural areas of Mali; this concern was left in the “to be determined” file.  Given this B+ grading the machine was crated up and sent to the engineers at OneLab Initiative in Columbus, OH.

OneLab Initiative is a group of Battelle engineers and technical people who have put their knowledge and expertise at CTI’s disposal on this thresher project.  Lead by Reade Harpham, these folks are redesigning the unit to improve its durability and ergonomics. They will also be retrofitting the thresher to include a winnowing fan in the basic design. Once Reade and his band of merry thresher engineers have completed their work, the new, freshly minted Leary Thresher will be shipped to Bamako, Mali for field trials. There it will be joined by CTI volunteer Steve Clarke, who with collaboration from more Malian friends of CTI, will determine what further modifications must be made before we have a production ready thresher…..but more on Steve’s work in a later addition!

CTI is proud to include creative thinkers like Jeff Wilson and Reade Harpham into our family of contributors. Many thanks guys!