Staff

Staff

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Why I am called to help

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Ron Christenson, CTI Board Member and Former Chair

All of us are called to help others. As a CTI donor and board member, I’ve been working to help families in Senegal for many years. But it wasn’t until I recently visited the country that I saw the powerful and lasting impact we can have on poverty with simple tools and a little compassion.

Senegal is a place with a lot of need and a lot to be proud of. Much of the population earns less than $2 per day. The people are friendly and care deeply about building their country. The government is stable and effective.

CTI is working side-by-side with farmers, women’s groups, and artisans in Senegal to equip communities with grain threshing tools so they can produce and sell more food. This gives people the power to improve their own lives.

I recently had the opportunity to join our Senegalese staff for the delivery of a thresher. The joy of the villagers was palpable. It was very fun to witness firsthand. With more time and higher earnings from the additional production provided by CTI tools, this village now has the opportunity to break the subsistence cycle.

Think about what this means for so many children. Often, we read about the child mortality rate in the developing countries and wonder what we can do. Providing these tools is a wonderful first step.

CTI's focus on helping families with post-harvest food production in select countries is resulting in progress. CTI’s threshers are currently being used by close to 200 villages, and we are delivering 150 more this year – reaching more than 40,000 people.

We are making progress by collaborating with many partners. We’re working with government partners to place the tools where they can have the most impact. We have a Senegalese leader of CTI Senegal who is just outstanding. And CTI's executive director, Alexandra Spieldoch, is providing strong leadership. She has a passion for West Africa and is very fluent in French.

CTI has an uncommon series of forces and events coming together to provide for very effective progress in coming years to have a significant impact on poverty in Senegal. Philanthropy through CTI is helping others. And this is very fun and wonderful to see in person. I feel I am helping others in a significant way by supporting CTI!

 

Ron L. Christenson retired from his position as Corporate VP and CTO at Cargill in 2009 after 38 years of service. During his career with Cargill he lived in Argentina and Canada and several locations within the USA while engineering, building and operating food processing plants. He had been responsible for Plant Operations, Food safety and Environment, Health and Safety and Engineering.

Ron has an interest in continuing to help people in the developing world through technology and education. He is supporter of Engineers without Borders. Ron also chairs the Dean's Advisory Board for the Institute of Technology at the University of Minnesota. He has supported the University through scholarships, fellowships and by endowing a chair in renewable energy. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1972. He is a registered professional engineer.

Ron is a member of the Board of Trustees of Science Museum of Minnesota. An avid outdoorsman, he owns a small woodland that he stewards for wildlife.

SteveWebCTI has collaborated with skilled volunteers since we were founded in 1981 by engineers and scientists who sought to use their expertise to fight global hunger. On our design team, you’ll a find a creative and quirky bunch of seasoned experts in a variety of fields. Take Steve Clough, a metallurgist and a top notch welder who helps CTI with equipment design and prototyping.

How does a kid from Detroit grow up to be a world record holder in motorcycle land speed racing and PHD metallurgist who helps fight global hunger in his spare time? Read on to find out:

Where did your creative spark came from?


I was born and raised in the Detroit area until 6th grade when we moved to a small farm 50 miles outside of Detroit. When you’re a farmer, you get involved in fixing and making things.

My whole life, I’ve liked building things.

When I was a little kid my dad had a pile of wood in the corner of the garage and some hand tools that I was always free to use. As a teenager, I was into building hot rods and drag racing motorcycles.

Where did your life take you?


After high school, I enlisted in the Air Force to keep from getting drafted during the Vietnam War. I spent four years in the Air force before getting into Michigan Technological University in 1970. I worked straight through the summers and got my PHD in metallurgical engineering in just about six years. I spent much of my career in surface analysis, which is an analytic technique to look at the surface, chemistry, and metallurgy of materials. Eventually, I started my own company, and then retired in 2011.

I’ve got two vintage 1955 Indian motorcycles, one of which I race — land speed racing in Utah. I established land speed record for my class of motorcycle in 2013 and raised the record in 2016. I’ll be going back this summer to attempt to break my record again.

So, I have hobbies that I’m deeply involved in, but after retirement, I was looking for something to do, not only fill time, but to feel like I’m paying back.

My wife is a registered nurse at the retirement community where the founder of CTI, George Ewing, was living. She and George had become good friends and he was always showing her his latest inventions. One day she came home and said, “George is going to be on TV tonight and we have to watch.” I watched the story on George, and looked at the CTI website and knew wanted to get involved, even if it just meant sweeping the floors.

What inspires you?


I enjoy doing something for somebody who’s not going to be doing anything back for me.

I never knew of efforts like CTI’s to work with very poor farmers. I was more aware of what you read in the news of big programs using automated equipment, but none of it helps the small individual farmer. I probably never even realized how many people are farming on 1, 2, or 3 acres and producing barely enough to feed themselves. I think CTI’s approach is having a big impact by taking these complex machines that we take for granted and turning them into simple machines that are affordable and reliable.

The volunteers I work with primarily are Don and Vern. I think the world of both guys. They’re able to contribute something I’m not and I contribute something they’re not. So, it’s a team effort to try to solve a problem and create a solution that’s lasting and valuable.

What would you do if you were on your own, with six kids to care for, and fighting for your life?

If you’re like Joyce, you get to work.

A few years ago, Joyce was in bad shape. Like 10% of Malawians, Joyce had HIV. Her weight had dropped to 85 pounds and no one expected her to live much longer. But she was a fighter. Joyce and others with HIV in her community began growing peanuts. They got their hands on a CTI grinder and started making peanut butter. Before long, everything changed.

Eating peanut butter helped Joyce and her friends gain weight. With better nutrition, their HIV medication started to kick in. Now Joyce is strong, healthy, and is selling peanut butter to help put her kids through school.

“Since this grinder was introduced to me, I have seen a big change in my health. Even my children cannot believe how much my health has changed,” said Joyce. "People can’t believe that I have HIV.” ” 

This project was made possible by the suport of Earthen Vessels, click here to learn more. 

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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.” 

 
IMG 1808It 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 the
ir 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. 
nutritionMalawi is one of the most malnourished countries in the world. In this small southeast African country, about the size of Ohio, malnutrition typically starts during childhood as a result of micronutrient deficiencies, a diet comprised of mostly cereals, and food shortages. Chronic malnutrition causes stunting in children, and those who survive it often deal with lifelong health and cognitive development challenges. The lasting effects of undernutrition impacts 60% of Malawi’s adults and cost the economy millions of dollars each year.

But that’s only a part of Malawi’s story. In recent years, Malawi has made major strides in reducing child mortality (down 80% since 1990) and the prevalence of HIV. Malawi is nicknamed “the warm heart of Africa” and it’s full of incredibly resilient communities working together to improve life for everyone. And it’s paying off.

At CTI, we’re equipping communities with tools that will help them produce more peanuts—one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. And we’re partnering with farmer co-ops and researchers in Malawi so families have nutritious, high-yielding seed varieties. Together, and with the support of our donors, we are helping communities boost their yields and diversify their diets so families are healthier and kids can look forward to brighter futures.

5 Things You Should Know about Child Nutrition in Malawi 

1) 23% percent of all child mortality cases in Malawi are associated with undernutrition

2) Today, 1.4 million or almost half of the children in Malawi are stunted

3) 66% of the adult population engaged in manual activities were stunted as children, representing an annual loss of US$ 67 million

4) Of all school year repetitions, 18 percent are associated with stunting

5) The total annual costs associated with child undernutrition are estimated at US$ 597 million, equivalent to 10.3% of GDP

Aflatoxins are the most toxic naturally occurring carcinogens known.

Aflatoxins are poisonous, cancer-causing chemicals that develop from mold and fungus, often as a result of improper storage and mishandled food. In many parts of Africa, aflatoxin contamination poses a serious risk to the health of rural communities. It’s also a major barrier to their ability to market their crops and earn a profit. 

Engineers at CTI are working in partnership with crop researchers at ICRISAT to develop a testing kit to help farmers and researchers identify aflatoxin in peanuts. ICRISAT has created a simple strip test that develops an easy to read black line to indicate if the peanuts are safe to eat.  CTI is researching simple, low cost technologies that can be adapted to chop the peanuts into a suitable sample size for testing. With a low-cost, field- testing kit, farmers can identify aflatoxin contamination at its source, in minutes, and mitigate a major threat to rural health and incomes.

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CTI’s newly published Design Innovation Path (DIP) is here!

In 2014, we worked with international consultant, Marius Quintana, to design a methodology for CTI’s research and development. Our DIP is the basis for CTI’s current and future research, putting small farmers’ needs at the center.

We start with an understanding of what small farmers, particularly women, are experiencing in relation to post-harvest activities and food processing. We explore ways in which CTI might be able to help. From there, we work with small farmers to create effective design and to insure our tools are available, affordable, accessible and valuable to them.

“Excellence must be achieved through the eyes of those who judge us; once achieved it can only be maintained with constant innovation.” (Tom Collins, Author, Entrepreneur, Epicurean)

You can read the Design Innovation Path in full here.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Saying goodbye to a remarkable man

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George Ewing

CTI Founder
1930-2015

It is with heavy hearts that we announce George Ewing, founder of Compatible Technology International, passed away peacefully on Monday, January 12.

George was born June 26, 1930 on a farm in Richland County, Wisconsin. He served with the US Navy in the Korean War before graduating from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering. He spent his career in research and engineering at General Mills, where he formed a group of volunteer scientists interested in helping communities in developing countries overcome their food processing problems. George’s group grew, and in 1981 they created the nonprofit Compatible Technology International.

George was the last surviving founder of CTI, and has been the heart and soul of the organization. Over the past 30+ years, he played a key role in the development of many of our post-harvest solutions, including storage and tools for peeling, slicing and drying of potato chips in one of our first programs in India.  George was also the inventor behind CTI’s grinder, for which the Ewing Grinder was named in his honor.

George was an incredibly smart and giving man. Even into his 80’s George has remained one of our most active volunteers, and in recent years he’s lent his expertise to create drying technologies, peanut processing tools, and a lower-cost grinder.

There is no doubt that thousands of people across the globe have permanently raised their standard of living because of George’s vision. And his work has inspired so many others here at CTI to use the skills and privileges we all have to give others a hand up. George was truly remarkable and his mind, generosity, and sense of humor will be deeply missed.

Services will be held at 1:30 PM on Saturday, January 17 at Spirit of Hope United Methodist, 7600 Harold Ave., Golden Valley. Visitation will begin at 11:30 AM until time of service.

If you would like to honor George, the family has asked that memorials may be made to Compatible Technology International. Memorial gifts can be made online, or by mailing us at 800 Transfer Road, Suite 6, St. Paul, MN 55114.

 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Celebrating Malcolm McLean

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CTI is sad to announce that Malcolm McLean, our beloved Executive Director from 1991-1995 and long-time friend, passed away on November 19th, 2014. Malcolm brought his wealth of experience to CTI, mentoring those around him and serving as an ambassador to the organization for the last twenty years. He will be greatly missed by the team.

Malcolm was instrumental in revitalizing CTI’s water treatment program in Nicaragua, after bringing together the program team and securing funding in 2010. Today, more than 275,000 people in Nicaragua have gained safe water as a result of Malcolm’s dedication.

In honor of Malcolm and his wife of 58 years, Wendy, CTI and Northland College have launched an internship for students to work with CTI’s technical experts in the workshop, and to travel internationally to see how basic food and water tools are making a difference in peoples’ lives where we work.

A memorial service will be held for Malcolm on December 6th at 11am at the Macalester Plymouth Church, 1658 Lincoln Avenue, St. Paul, MN. Click here to read Malcolm’s obituary.

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