Wednesday, 06 August 2014

CTI sells out in Senegal!

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womanthreshing

Aliou Ndiaye, CTI Project Manager – Senegal

Greetings from Senegal! This year we embarked on a journey to try a new model for increasing our outreach to farmers. We established our first office in Africa and began distributing our tools directly to farmers, with help from a local staff full of energy and passion.

The results surprised all of us.

CTI’s tools have flown off the shelves and in just the past six months, we’ve sold our entire inventory of grinders and threshers and we now have 80 backorders for tools to be delivered to farmers, entrepreneurs, and local organizations. CTI is committed to keeping its tools affordable, so the equipment is offered at cost and we direct farmers to financial resources to ensure they are set up for success. As a result, more than 12,000 people in 51 villages have improved their food production through CTI’s tools in Senegal.

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Project Manager Aliou Ndiaye meetings with villagers in Senegal.

You should know how grateful we are here in Senegal for your support. I’ve had the privilege of watching women’s eyes light up when they receive CTI’s thresher—representing an end to their daily drudgery. And I’ve witnessed village women transform into leaders and respected entrepreneurs through their grinder enterprises. I am honored to work for an organization that is empowering women and integrating them better in the market. The number of smiles that I see when delivering CTI’s tools gives me strength without boundaries.

In Senegal, our communities are hungry for opportunities, not handouts. More than ever, farmers have access to the seeds, fertilizer, and agricultural training to bring a good harvest. And now, with CTI in Senegal, farmers finally have affordable postharvest technologies that increase their food production and generate new income for their families.

This year, we at CTI have big plans to reach 25,000 more people in Senegal, bring safe water to 60,000 more people in Nicaragua, and introduce CTI’s newest innovations in peanut processing to farmers in Malawi. But we need your help to make it happen. Your donation today will improve lives in Senegal and around the globe. So, please GIVE!

Donate NowThere’s a common expression in Senegal, “Nio far,” which means “we are together.” We hope you will stick with CTI as we continue transforming lives in Senegal, in Nicaragua, and around the world. Nio far!

aliouN


Aliou Ndiaye, CTI Project Manager – Senegal

Aliou Ndiaye has many years of experience working with small farmers, Senegalese governmental organizations, international NGOs, and the private sector. He has worked as an advisor on agriculture and rural development with the Senegalese agencies SAED and ANCAR, training farmers to improve crop productivity, connecting them to the market and facilitate access to capital. Before joining CTI, Aliou worked as a Value Chain Manager for a USAID funded project focusing on sorghum and millet in Senegal. Aliou has a degree in Agricultural Engineering and a Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) at University Cheikh Anta Diop Dakar. Aliou is also a Geographic Information System specialist and has used this skill to gather important agricultural data throughout Senegal.

 

AliouMeghan Fleckenstein, CTI Communications Director

It’s 110 degrees and CTI’s team is being introduced to a rural village near Kaolack by our Senegal Program Manager, Aliou Ndiaye. Speaking in Wolof, the local language, Aliou addresses about two dozen villagers who’ve gathered to greet us under the shade of a large tree,

“For the past 10 years you have seen the same rate of yield in your pearl millet crop. You have good seed and good farming practices, but we cannot extend the land. We are here today look at how postharvest technologies can help feed your families. We can’t find the solution without you. We can’t improve our technology or help other farmers use it without you. So we have to make you work. We need you to tell us honestly how you feel about the technology, what you like and dislike, and how you think it can impact your village.”

A team of CTI staff and volunteers is in Senegal to work with our local partners on expanding the distribution and impact of our recently-launched Grain Tools. Over the past few weeks, CTI has delivered sets of tools (including a pearl millet stripper, thresher, winnower and grinder) to 15 villages in Senegal as part of a program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal of the project is to place the suites in different types of villages throughout Senegal and gather data on their use so we can focus our distribution efforts on reaching the communities that stand to benefit most from the tools.

Villagers Provide Feedback

The village we were visiting had recently received CTI’s tools and  we wanted to check in with the community to provide additional training and get their initial reaction. First, we spoke to the village women’s organization. While in Senegal, I learned that formal women’s organizations are very common in villages, and some communities even have more than one. They often run businesses and use their earnings to pay for school fees or to purchase things for the group.

Womens Group Leader

The president of the women’s organization, Ndeye Gueye, spoke on behalf of the group, “We are very happy about this technology. It is very useful. In the past we were using the mortar and pestle and now that we have this, we can reduce drudgery for women and save grain. This technology may be a small thing, but for us it is a big gift.”

Other community members—both men and women— gathered to offer advice for increasing the output of the technology and improving the grinder so it can process wet millet. The villagers also expressed how much they enjoyed using the grinder to make peanut butter and they hoped to earn money grinding for others. They explained that previously, the village had been using an expensive motorized grinder provided by another organization, but when the machine broke just two years after they received it, the women had to return to grinding their peanuts by hand. We hear this type of story far too often at CTI—money being spent providing communities with expensive, complicated machinery that rarely lasts more than a few years.

After spending more time with the community, as we prepared to leave, Aliou addressed the group a final time, and was clear and direct that our collaboration is a partnership that will require work and commitment on both sides. Aliou explained,

Village Leader

“We are very happy about this technology. Everything you see starts small and grows. We see this as just the beginning.” – Demba Aly Ba, Village Leader

“We came here to work together to find solutions for the whole nation. This is our proposal to you, but it is just a proposal. If you do not want to do this, we can go to another village. But if you want to use the technology and tell us how you honestly feel about it, then let’s get to work.”

At CTI, we never stop pushing ourselves to do better, to improve our process and our technologies, and we depend on communities to give their honest opinions rather than telling us what they think we want to hear. In Senegal, this has not been a problem. The women and men are smart, outspoken, and engaged.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

CTI awarded Feed the Future support!

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Grain_Tools

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.

FTFPFILogo

USAIDFINTRAC

 

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Thursday, 30 May 2013

Gates Foundation Backs our “Bold Idea”

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kids

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!

 

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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

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.

Wednesday, 05 December 2012

From our Executive Director

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CTI Executive Director Roger Salway and villagers inspect pearl millet grain that’s been processed with CTI’s new grain tools.

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.

Sincerely,
Roger Salway, CTI Executive Director

This letter was originally published in CTI’s 2012 Annual Report. Email cti@compatibletechnology.org if you would like to receive a copy of the Annual Report.

By Brianna Besch, CTI Intern-

Last month the Food and Agricultural Organization estimated that 850 million people on the planet are chronically hungry. The problem isn’t necessary lack of food—the world is growing more food than ever before—it’s that this food can’t be accessed by those most at risk of hunger: the rural poor, in particular, landless and smallholder farmers, who are not producing enough food to subsist. These farmers can’t compete in a global agricultural system stacked against them.

This is why CTI develops simple technologies that help farmers in the developing world overcome food insecurity. Our devices are designed specifically for the daily challenges small farmers face. They are efficient, affordable and culturally appropriate. Instead of encouraging farmers to grow more food, we help them keep the food they already have by reducing post-harvest processing losses.

Small developing world farmers are at a huge disadvantage in the global agricultural market. It started with the Green Revolution; the period in the 1960’s that promoted extensive deployment of chemical fertilizers, farm machinery and high-yielding varieties of grain. While many view this era as a great triumph (food production skyrocketed,) growing more food did not help feed the world’s poorest population—smallholder rural farmers. As production exploded and cheap, subsidized imports flooded developing world markets, grain prices plummeted. Smallholder farmers were unable to afford expensive inputs associated with high-yielding varieties, and using traditional production methods could not compete against large international agribusinesses. As a result, many farmers lost their land while others switched to cash crops, leaving them food insecure and deeper in poverty.

Increasing yields isn’t the only way increase food availability. Each year Sub-Saharan farmers lose $4 billion worth of grain in post-harvest processing. CTI works at a village level to harness this waste with simple, efficient, labor saving technologies.

One example is our newest set of grain processors. Farmers lose 15-50% of their grain in traditional processing methods:a mortar and pestle to remove grain from the stalk and separating grain from chaff in the wind. We created a stripper, thresher and winnower system for pearl millet, a highly nutritious traditional crop. These devices process grain ten-times faster than traditional methods, with less than 10% losses. During the testing phase, Oumar Sarr, from Senegal, described the system’s impact:

“I like the lack of yields lost in the process, the clean unbroken grain, but most importantly, what would take 10 women to do in an hour now takes 1 woman 10 minutes.”

Through a collaboration with the National Cooperative Business Association, we sent six of these systems to Senegal, and held trainings on them with rural villages last month.

While the problems of the world agricultural system are out of our hands, our work is one piece of a global solution to eradicating hunger. By focusing on post-harvest food capture, rather than highly technical yield increases, we are helping smallholder developing-world farmers compete when the deck is stacked against them.

Brianna is a senior Environmental Studies and Geography major at Macalester College, currently interning at CTI.