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The millet harvest just ended in Senegal and families across the country are preparing for one of the busiest times of the year. In a few weeks, women and girls will gather to start processing their millet into edible grain. Usually, this is backbreaking work done almost entirely by hand. 

But this year, we’re delivering CTI's Pearl Millet Threshers to 150 villages in Senegal, and these communities are ushering in the millet season with singing, dancing, and celebrations. Last week our staff traveled by truck, by boat, and by horse to deliver a thresher to a small seaside community in Western Senegal. Members of this community had previously tested a prototype of the thresher and were grateful to see that that their input had influenced the thresher design.

 

“We are glad that you really listened to us and included our feedback in the thresher design. It’s really easy to turn the crank and we can see it’s producing high-quality grain,” Awa told our staff. “We’re looking forward to using the thresher to create an income for our community.” 

 
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It would be difficult to overstate the importance of millet in Senegal, and the opportunities that this technology represents. Millet is the most widely grown crop in the country and it’s a vital source of nutrition for families. With access to CTI’s thresher, families can produce more food with less effort. Now, moms and their daughters will have more time to go to school, sell their crops at market, and enjoy life. 


Over the next several weeks, we’ll be delivering threshers across the country. The thresher is now being built by a fabricator in Senegal, so farmers will have a place to turn to for repairs and spare parts. Local manufacturing means that expensive shipping costs are eliminated so more donor dollars go directly towards helping farmers and their communities. 

Published in blog

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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.

Published in Thresher

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After I had the privilege of interning with CTI last summer, I spent the 2015 fall semester studying international development in Senegal—where CTI's work has a profound impact. I saw this firsthand when I lived in Tattaguine, a small village 100 km southeast of Senegal's capital, Dakar.

In Tattaguine, the day's work began before sunrise, preparing livestock for pasture and breakfast for the family. Later, the women would begin preparation for the family's lunch and dinner—pounding several stalks of millet using the traditional mortar and pestle. The women would occasionally pause to sift through the grains. After meals, they cracked bowl after bowl of the family's peanut crop by hand.

Millet and peanuts are just two of the many crops grown by smallholding farmers in the region. Many families have their own small farms where they grow sorghum, beans, maize, and sometimes peppers and watermelons. My host family, the Ngom's, do the same: they rely on their crops for food and sell what is left.

Despite growing their own food, the Ngom's remain food insecure. This means that the family of 15 lacks nutritious choices, sometimes going without a meal. I spent my summer internship with CTI researching this phenomenon. At its core, hunger is often an economic problem where supply and demand interact—or in this case, fail to act—to provide enough nutritious food to all people. The supply side argument holds that production fails to meet the food needs of populations. The demand side argument claims the opposite: the failure to get enough food comes from high prices or inaccessibility at the market and a lack of income.

This has real consequences. To provide even an insufficient amount of food for her family, my host mother spent her entire afternoon preparing couscous for dinner. My host sisters would help out as well, sometimes needing to put off their homework to pound the millet. To have enough money for food, clothing, and other expenses, my host sisters' husbands worked miles away from home. They are only able to visit once per month at most.

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A related phenomenon is the mechanization of agriculture, which is any process by which food production and processing is done with the help of machines. Mechanization lessens workloads, boosts productivity, and permits faster, higher-quality, and larger-scale production and processing. More food is produced and kept out of harm's way, which increases supply. Sales from this increased supply, and improved capacity to sell throughout the year, increase incomes to bolster the demand side. Further, spillover effects of mechanization include decreasing rates of fertility and child labor, increasing market integration, employment, and resources and power for women.

This is what CTI does in Senegal. They are tackling hunger, one thresher at a time. Obstacles persist due to the remoteness of some communities, lack of education and knowledge, and the issue of financing so many machines (for CTI) and buying them (for some farmers), but the CTI model escapes some common pitfalls. For one thing, its manual machines are cheaper for farmers than other larger, bulkier options and forgo the use of expensive and unsustainable fossil fuels.

CTI hopes to extend its work with extension agencies like SAPPAT, my host organization in Tattaguine, to further the impact of its program in Senegal and eliminate hunger among Senegalese families. I am privileged first to have worked for two incredible organizations on two continents and second to connect both my experiences and the organizations' work in such tangible ways. Much work remains, but progress is surely being made, from the offices of St. Paul to the millet fields of the Sahel.

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Noah Nieting studies economics, African studies, and international development at Macalester College where he also runs the student-led international development group. He can be contacted at nnieting@macalester.edu.

 

 

 

Published in West Africa

This year, CTI launched a pilot program to begin distributing our new grain tools in Senegal. We sold and delivered tools to more than 50 villages—improving millet production and strengthening food security for more than 12,000 people! We also spent time following up with the women using our tools (through discussions, formal surveys, and field tests) to learn how the tools were impacting women’s lives, and how we can improve our technology designs and services, to ensure farmers are realizing their maximum potential.

While feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, women asked us to make the thresher faster, more affordable, and easier for one person to operate. Our design team got to work, and today, we’re premiering our newest thresher design! Check out the video to see it in action!

And if you want to be a part of helping us deliver our new prototype to farmers, along with training, financial and business mentoring, you can click on the image below to make a donation, and your gift will be matched—today only!

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Published in West Africa
Wednesday, 15 December 2010

An Open Mind and Heart

Written by  Andrea Brovold, Africa Co-Chair/Volunteer

One month ago, CTI volunteer, Andrea Brovold, and Executive Director, Roger Salway traveled to West Africa to share CTI’s new thresher and winnower prototypes with farmers in Mali and Senegal. While most of us were preparing food for our yearly Thanksgiving Day feast, Roger and Andrea were helping women in rural Senegal with their daily six hour ritual of threshing, winnowing, and grinding their family’s meal by hand. Here, Andrea shares her impressions from the trip that would test her physical and emotional limits, and leave her with unforgettable memories and lifelong friends.

Upon arrival to the Kuer Ali Guey village in the Kaolack region of Senegal, we were welcomed with open arms.  Awa, President of the Women’s Association said “Andrea, you look like you are a peaceful volunteer”.  It was the warm reception of Kuer Ali Guey and the surrounding villages and organizations from the very inception of this project that the rest of the trip would live up to, even surpass.  Come to think of it, while there were parameters in which we were expected to work towards, per NCBA/USAID along with objectives and outcomes to strive towards, my expectations–as per the opening title–were  “Going in with an open mind and heart”…and little more.

Quickly, I found that the universal language of love and compassion transcends any boundary or constraint, personal, professional or otherwise.  Put simply, the more you are willing to give of yourself, the more response and progress one will find.  Many village visits, meetings and relationships were forged due to our determination to serve.  And serve we did.  The thoughtful technologies of CTI, coupled with the sensitivity to cultural and individual differences, advanced this month long journey to a caliber of unexpected proportions.

 Some dialogue that we observed from various sources were “If you could visualize our interest, it would be as tall as a skyscraper!”, Ahmed Dame Cisse from Lat Mingue village; “You have a friend here…in me”, Dougal Guey in Kayemon village; and “C’est bon C’est bon C’est bon!”, a farmer from CARITAS. Most touching for me was a departure from a life-long friend I made despite the language barriers “I have left my heart with you”, said Therese, wife of CARITAS Geo-Scientist Renee with whom we dined at a Thanksgiving Feast to help us feel at “home” in their home.  Touching is the fact that each of these people are tickled by what our simple technologies can provide–a way and means for a better life–and touching is the fact that I have been blessed to have had the chance to help secure that opportunity.

Recently, at our December board meeting, I explained my obsession with taking photographs of doors. Each of us have had doors closed, only for others to be opened, and until CTI and pursuing my Masters in Development Policy with a concentration in Africa, it seems that there was a less definable period in my life.  Many “doors” and opportunities have been presented to me within this organization that I think so highly of, and I have been keen to act on those opportunities. Beyond that, I feel that it is my job to continue to open similar doors for the people CTI serves, those who are equally deserving, but without the ways or means. It is unconscionable to me to think that what CTI is able to provide will not be visible to most rural communities.  So I, like each of the equally passionate and eager volunteers at CTI, happily forge an exodus towards a goal of creating and supporting sustainable environments that will provide future generations with tools, education and kindred roots.

I had a lot of reflective moments during this trip, and I also blogged our adventures, seemingly because it would have been impossible to re-create most of these experiences after the fact.  But what resonates loudest in my mind are the moments that rendered me speechless (something that rarely happens).  It is these silent moments, personal exchanges, accepting smiles, joyous laughter and dancing that are impossible to prepare for, which allowed me to reflect most authentically and honestly that I am truly the most fortunate woman in the world.

We are called to do certain things in our lives, and it is what we do with that time that matters most.  Cliché perhaps, but I enjoy very much a quote I once heard, “In the end, it is not the amount of breaths you take it’s the moments that take your breath away.”

Published in West Africa
Friday, 16 January 2009

Pearl Millet Thresher Update

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!

Published in Thresher