Tuesday, 15 July 2008

CTI-Designed Devices Introduced in Mali

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Board member Camille George traveled to Mali last month to explore several projects that could utilize technologies developed by CTI. Working with Aissata Thera, a senior scientist at the Institute Economique Rurale, IER, (the Malian equivalent of the USDA) and Sidy Ba, a hydraulics professor at the Institute Polytechnic Rurale, IPR, (University of Bamako’s Institute of Agriculture), the simple pearl millet hand-stripping device developed by CTI volunteers Don Kuether, Erv Lentz and Rolfe Leary was demonstrated in two Malian villages. The women were genuinely interested in the simple time saving device and offered many constructive comments to help develop an even better design.

Camille also met with Dr. Eva Weltzien, Principal Investigator for ICRISAT. Dr. Weltzien is interested in developing new varieties of pearl millet and sorghum and in increasing the consumption of locally produced grains in Mali’s urban areas. Collaboration between ICRISAT/ Mali, IER, IPR, CTI and the University of St. Thomas’ Chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World, UST-ESW, is currently being explored.

A second project explored the possibility of growing seed potatoes in Mali. At this time, Mali imports all of its seed potatoes from Europe. IER will try CTI’s evaporative cooling potato storage technology this winter to store several varieties of seed potatoes through their dormant period. Growing seed potatoes would greatly increase Mali’s food security.

Left to right: Dr. Clet Niyikiza, Dr. Agnes Abera Kalibata, George Ewing, Steve Clarke and Rod Brown. George explains, using a model, the operation of a Rustic Storage Building.

On Saturday April 26, Compatible Technology had the honor of hosting Dr. Agnes Abera Kalibata, the State Minister for Agriculture in Rwanda. Dr. Kalibata, who holds a PhD in agriculture from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, toured our facility in order to determine how our technologies could be applied profitably in Rwanda. While here, she was treated to demonstrations of our potato processing, grain and nut grinding, millet threshing, slicing and shredding devices, solar drying and water chlorination technologies. The Minister was very impressed with our people and our sustainable apparatuses.

During our subsequent discussions, the Minister expressed her enthusiasm for our food preservation and processing technologies. Since she has defined agricultural and environmental improvement goals for Rwanda she concentrated on these distinct areas. Rwanda currently is in the enviable position of producing more food products than it can consume. Therefore there is a profitable value chain that is available for Rwandans to commercially preserve food, by drying fruits, and/or converting these excesses into a processed product such as flour for distribution to less fortunate areas.

Many thanks to the Minister for visiting us and to our many volunteers who presented CTI in such a favorable light!

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Volunteer Visits Uganda and Zimbabwe

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Jim Sentz, a CTI volunteer, visited Uganda and Zimbabwe during the fall of 2007.  This multi-faceted tour was planned with respect to Jim’s previous professional experiences in Africa, and more recently as a CTI Volunteer and former Africa Committee Chair.  His agenda was to observe economic and humanitarian development activities as pursued by Christian missions, international organizations and local entities.  He wanted to better understand the potential for CTI technologies and how they may contribute most toward economic and social development in the region.  A Kenyan travel guide perhaps expressed it best in his suggestion to “experience the people.”   Jim expressed “it is a challenge for us to more fully appreciate and consider the perspectives of those whom we would assist, if we are truly going to help enhance their economic and social welfare.”

In Uganda, Jim visited with both Baljit Singh of JBT (the machine shop that manufactures the Ewing grinder in Kampala) and AT-Uganda representatives (an NGO) with respect to production and distribution of the Ewing grinder.  He also explored further contacts at Makerere University in Food Science & Technology and Engineering departments with specific reference to groundnut processing, and solar dehydration technologies and to gain a better understanding of their small-scale technology industry.

In Zimbabwe, Jim visited with Tunga Rukuni, Director of University of Zimbabwe Development Technology Center (DTC), and his staff with particular reference to their evaluation of Omega VI and Ewing III grinders provided by CTI in June 2007.  Jim also discussed grinder production issues in Zimbabwe, grinder competition, promotion and distribution and the over arching impact of exorbitant inflation amid collapse of their economy.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

CTI Expands Work With “the Other India”

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While much has been said and written about the emerging economy of India, there continues to be a bleak level of poverty in many areas of the country. Last November, CTI volunteers Nancy and Steve Laible helped expand CTI’s reach to “the other India”. There is a continuing need to help the parts of India that have high rates of illiteracy, a lack of electricity in the homes and millions of people existing on less than two dollars per day.

Nancy and Stevestoppedin Mumbai on their way to their primary nutrition project in Bangladesh. Fellow CTI volunteer, Shiv Murty, had made arrangements for Nancy and Steve to meet contacts at the Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay. The Institute has a Center for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA). CTI and CTARA have a lot in common regarding a mission of helping the poor with appropriate and compatible technology.  The visit had a two-fold purpose. First, Nancy and Steve presented a seminar on CTI grinder technology at the Institute. The seminar was attended by IIT faculty, research associates and graduate students. A second purpose was to transport and transfer an Omega VI grinder to the Yusuf Meherally Centre (YMC), an India based NGO that works directly with the poor of “the other India”.

CTARA and YMC have invited CTI to join them in expanding the technologies that are available to the poor in India. The visit by the Laibles is a first step in what is hoped will be an on-going collaboration with the goal of expanding the availability of CTI post harvest technologies in the areas of potato processing and grinder technology to more parts of India.

Nancy and Steve report that one of the real joys of the trip was to visit one of the YMC project sites about 40 miles east of Mumbai. Their YMC host, Haresh Shah, had made arrangements for a grinder and peanut butter demonstration with enterprise workers at Tara Village. It was amazing to see the delight in the eyes of the villagers as they discussed the ways they might use a grinder. A CTI Omega VI grinder has been added to the inventory of food processing equipment at the village enterprise. In the photos aboce, Nancy is sharing peanut butter samples with the village women.  The grinder will initially be used for training and food processing research. The research efforts will receive technical support from the CTARA group at IIT-Bombay. The women shown in the picture will soon have the training and capability to make their own peanut butter.  Continuing this three party collaboration will be a major focus of the CTI Asia Committee during the next year.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Profile of a CTI Volunteer

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Erv Lentz, a member of CTI’s Board of Directors and very active shop volunteer was awarded our “Volunteer of the Year Award” at the October Board Meeting. When asked to send in a few comments for this bio Erv sent a four-page history! Clearly Erv is proud of his life – and he should be.

College life, sports, ROTC, leadership of many volunteer organizations, entrepreneurship, engineering, corporate creativity, energy, initiative, family, faith – all come forward to mark a well-rounded volunteer. Around CTI Erv can be found on any given day making “something” in the shop, or fixing a shelf in the office, or shopping for a needed tool, or sharing experiences. Erv’s contributions to CTI’s mission and governance are huge. In recognizing him as volunteer of the year we join the thousands of people who have benefited from Erv’s touch to say, “Well Done. Thanks!”

Thursday, 13 December 2007

ECHO Report

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Between November 6th and 8th, Bert Rivers, CTI’s Supply Chain Manager, attended the 14th Annual ECHO Agricultural Conference in Ft. Myers, FL. ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization) is a not-for-profit organization whose Mission is to network with community leaders in developing countries to seek hunger solutions for families growing food under difficult conditions. It has had a long standing relationship with CTI, and has been very supportive of our experiments into moringa processing.

Bert made 53 formal presentations to people interested in CTI’s technologies, as well as putting on a two hour workshop demonstrating our Omega VI grinder. This photo shows a grinder being powered by a bicycle. Bert reports that CTI’s technologies are enthusiastically endorsed by ECHO staff. We will be pursuing with ECHO personnel whether the synergies that exist between our two organizations can be exploited for our mutual benefit.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Drying Breadfruit in the Marshall Islands

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This past summer CTI volunteer and St. Thomas engineering professor, Camille George,was invited to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) by their Ministry of Natural Resources and Development to see if breadfruit, a plentiful food resource, could be dried and ground into flour. Food security and nutrition are two of the most pressing issues for these remote islands, located near the International Date Line and the equator. Mass relocations and financial subsidies after the USA’s nuclear testing program have resulted in a largely sedentary population severed from their traditional culture and currently dependent on imported American food. Obesity in the adult population is over 50% and diabetes is epidemic.

There is a high level of interest in the successful introduction of the harvesting and drying of excess breadfruit, which may also have a substantial social impact. Breadfruit was successfully shredded using the Tommie shredder developed by University of St. Thomas (UST) students, sun dried, and ground into flour using the Omega IV grinder developed by Compatible Technology International. The two machines were mounted on a single production stand and are currently being transported to different Marshallese islands as a first introduction of the technology. At this time a partnership is forming between UST, CTI, the Breadfruit Institute of Hawaii, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands to explore opportunities to use breadfruit commercially and to help strengthen food security.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Another Compatible Technology at Work

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About this time every year, CTI volunteers Purnima and Bibek Ray return to Bibek's home town of Gohaldanga, West Bengal, India for approximately six months. There they are working to improve the social and economic welfare of the people in and around Gohaldanga. Part of the economic development program involves increasing the value of the potato harvest. In the past we have discussed the potato processing; in this article we report on storage opportunities.

In West Bengal, the potato harvest is large. However, due to the climatic conditions, much of the crop rots quickly before it can be eaten or processed. Purchase prices increase rapidly as the time from harvest extends. Thus, the farmers get a low value for their harvest, but business enterprises that can refrigerate or cold store the potatoes, get a higher price as time passes. Working on a CTI funded project, Bibek and Purnima have been developing, with the assistance of CTI engineers, Rustic Storage facilities for potatoes.

A Rustic Storage Unit is a brick walled, thatched roof building constructed over an open water reservoir.These Rustic Storage units, built by farmers themselves, use the concept of evaporative cooling to greatly reduce the temperature within the facility. Due to the reduced temperature, the storage life of the potato crop is greatly extended and the farmers can get a higher price for their crops.

Last year, around Gohaldanga, the potato crop was harvested in mid-February. Potatoes stored in the facility did not begin to spoil until late July. Potatoes used for sun dried chips and strings had to be processed about a month earlier. Because the good quality life cycle of the crop could be greatly extended, farmers will be able to significantly increase the value of their cash crop by as much as 300%.

Monday, 13 August 2007

CTI Travels to Sudan

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On a sunny June day in Jalimo, Sudan, Kathleen Graham, a CTI Volunteer, welcomed twenty Sudanese agricultural extension agents to the three day "Training of Trainers" technology workshop she had organized with the help of Norwegian People's Aid manager Ezana Getahun.  The goal was to transform these agents into Ewing grinder experts, so they could return to their communities and teach villagers to use and maintain the Ewing grinder. 

Before the workshop was over, each agent had to stand and demonstrate how he or she would teach others to take the grinder apart and put it together; to process peanuts, millet, sorghum, coffee, maize, sesame, cow peas and coffee; and to clean and maintain the grinder in good condition.  Homework included each participant preparing a written training plan, which was also presented to the group and critiqued!  Basic business planning, record keeping and food prep safety were also on the agenda, as NPA and CTI hope the grinders will become part of income generating activities.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Wooden Body for Omega Grinder?

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The genius of George Ewing strikes again! In response to a discussion on how we might reduce the manufacturing and shipping costs of our Omega grinders, George offered to make a wooden grinder. And, voilá! George made this model out of oak with metal tubing for the throat of the grinder. Otherwise the body, front plate and yoke all are made of wood in place of machined aluminium castings. Although we don't have production costs for the "Woody" as yet, we believe that as much as $125 could be removed from the inventoried cost. Additionally, because the product could be shipped disassembled, some savings could be realized in the shipping.

There is also the possibility of just shipping the metal components, i.e., shaft, helix, burrs, bearings and metal throat and allowing local artisans to make their own wooden part.So many options! A few Board members are also approaching IKEA to see if there is a fit with their philanthropic outreach and/or utilizing their supply chain to make and package the parts for us. We will report more on this exciting development as it develops. In the mean time, George, thank you once again!

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