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.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Introducing CTI’s newest thresher design!

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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!


Doña Aurela is a community leader in Nicaragua who volunteers with the CAPS to maintain her village’s potable water. CAPS (Comite de Agua Potable y Saniemento or Potable Water and Sanitation Committee) is a national organization of formal village water committees common in rural communities, where many villages lack any form of water treatment. CTI partners with CAPS throughout Nicaragua, and trains them to install and maintain our Water Chlorinators, which provide entire villages with safe water for pennies per day.

“Safe water is a prerequisite to ending poverty.”

What motivates these men and women to give their time, energy, and money to establish safe water in their villages? There are many reasons, but as Doña Aurela explains in the video above, safe water is an essential prerequisite to building healthier communities and economic growth.

This week, CTI and our partners at EOS International and Self Help International are hosting an inaugural Clean Water Conference in the capital city of Managua. We’re gathering CAPS leaders from villages across Nicaragua, as well as officials from the National Ministry of Health, Mayor’s Offices, and other non-governmental development organizations. We are meeting to discuss the state of potable water in rural villages, how each of us contributes to addressing the challenges, and ways we can strengthen and expand our partnership nationally.

And if you believe that access to safe water is a fundamental right everyone should have, you can help us realize that vision. Click on the image below to make a donation, and your gift will be matched—today only!



Friday, 31 October 2014

What true empowerment looks like

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aissitou1“The business gives me more power in the community.”

Meet Aissatou, a farmer, mother of four, and breadwinner for her family. A few months ago, Aissatou purchased a CTI grinder and began selling grinding services to her neighbors and peanut butter at the market.

Words like “empowerment” get thrown around casually in the nonprofit world, but what does empowering women business leaders really mean?

Well it’s about so much more than reducing drudgery and raising incomes. Women like Aissatou become well respected decision-makers in their communities and influential role models. So while she’s raising their own standard of living, Aissatou is also elevating the status of women in her village and in Senegal.

An interview with Aissatou

Tell us about your village

I am from Lende, a village in the community of Thiargny in Louga region of Senegal. We live 30 KM from the main road, and we have water, but no electricity yet. We are a Pular community, and we mostly work in livestock, raising animals like goats, cows, and chickens.

Tell us about your grinder business

Every Tuesday I go to the weekly market and sell products in the community. Six months ago, I bought a CTI grinder. It’s helped me use my time more efficiently. I provide grinding services to other women, and I sell peanut butter at the market now. Now I can grind about 10 kg of peanut butter a day and sell it at the weekly market, and earn about $1 more each day. I use the money to feed and support my family.

The grinder is simple. It’s durable, I don’t need help to fix it, and I don’t have the face the need to find gas.

I like that, in my community, I’ve been able to find an opportunity to create a business and become self-sufficient.

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud, as a woman, to be a leader and have respect in my community. I’m proud that I don’t need to ask for help, I can take care of my family with the daily work I’m doing: raising my cattle (cows, lams, goats, chickens) and providing grinding services with the CTI grinder I bought. Now I’m proud to sell peanut butter I made with the CTI grinder too.

I am also the 336 member of “PAMECAS,” a microfinance institute operating in our community ten years ago. As one of the first members of the community, I am a board member and can participate in decision making.

What do you do with your extra income?

I have four daughters that go to school, and I use the money to pay for their school fees, and to feed them, and help support my husband, of course. I also save some of the money so I can get more loans from the Micro-finance Institute.
How does it feel to own a business?

It is very important for me to own a business, and now I can use more extra time in a more efficient manner, and the business gives me more power in the community too.

How does it feel to be a woman leader?

It makes me meet with other people and this is important for me. Sometime it can be tough to be a woman leader because within the group we have different ethnicities and different ages—the young and old women have different points of view. But it’s quite interesting because they follow me and trust to me.

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope to see my daughters more educated than me so they can play a role in the community. And, of course, I want my business grow!

Friday, 17 October 2014

The Untapped Potential of Women In Agriculture

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Wesley Meier, CTI Program Director

A common and very important theme that echoed during the 2014 World Food Prize was the untapped potential of women in agriculture. Pamela Anderson, the Director of Agriculture at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pointed out that 2 out of 3 women in Africa are employed in agriculture, and it’s women who responsible for 90% of grueling post-harvest processing work.

If women had equal access to credit, land, inputs, markets as men, we would be able to increase agricultural productivity by 20%.

One of the biggest constraints faced by women, according to Anderson, is labor. Reducing women’s labor is a major focus of Compatible Technology International, and we’ve seen how easing the burden on women farmers can increase their yields, improve the quality of the food they produce, and help them better market and sell their crops.

But while improving women’s access to technologies and resources is important, access alone is not enough to make a lasting difference. The gender gap is deeper and broader than we thought, Anderson noted, and we need to continue studying it and addressing the topic through technologies and policy.


Over the past four years, CTI has been on a mission to provide safe water to rural communities in Nicaragua. We teamed up with more than 400 villages to install CTI’s Water Chlorinator, and today, we are proud to announce that more than 250,000 people have gained clean drinking water for the first time in their history.

This is the culmination of a goal we set in 2011, when CTI’s water chlorinators were in just over 40 communities. We built a team with hundreds of village volunteers, officials from the Nicaraguan Health Ministries, NGO partners, and together, village-by-village, we’ve been spreading clean, safe water and empowering community leaders.

The results? Kids are full of life and in school, parents are healthy and productive, and waterborne illness has “disappeared” according to local Health Ministries in the areas where we’re working.

I want to thank the Pentair Foundation, Project Redwood, Rotary clubs, and countless donors for their support and dedication to the fundamental right to safe water. We are on track to double our impact over the next few years, and by 2018, we will empower half a million people in Nicaragua with improved health and more prosperous communities.

Alexandra Spieldoch, CTI Executive Director


Wednesday, 06 August 2014

CTI sells out in Senegal!

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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.


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!


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.


Thursday, 31 July 2014

Human Centered Design approach in Nicaragua

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This June, 9 students and 2 professors from Iowa State University embarked on a journey to study abroad in Nicaragua for their class, “Engineering—Human Centered Design.” This trip marks what CTI and Emerging Opportunities for Sustainability (EOS) in Nicaragua hope to be the first of many.

Wes Meier, CTI’s Program Director, was on-site to welcome the team and also lay the foundation for their time in Nicaragua. Through his eyes, there was a functional purpose to the trip: giving undergraduate students an opportunity to study abroad and be immersed in another culture while working on engineering design. But Wes also knew that he had an opportunity to plant a seed for a methodology to engineering that was not just designing for the people, but was designing with the people.

“Human centered design” is about working with the people, listening closely to their needs, getting feedback on ideas, and ultimately co-designing technologies. And, the results of this trip speak for themselves on what can be accomplished with this approach. The students designed three simple prototypes during their time in Nicaragua:

1. Coffee roaster: a larger scale roaster than what is currently being used
2. Water catch system: a system that catches rain water from roofs
3. Biochar reactor (combined with a study of biochar in the soil): biochar is charcoal created from left over biomass (i.e. grass, manure, etc.) that when burned in a certain way creates rich fertilizer

Isn’t it amazing what can be designed when we listen first to what the people need?

This trip was a great introduction to this partnership between CTI, EOS and the Iowa State Engineering Department, with students and faculty giving it the green light for future years. The desire is to grow the program, so if you know of other universities that may be interested in participating in a collaborative study abroad program, focusing on “human centered design,” we want to hear from you. Please contact Wes Meier, Program Director, at with your information.


Najia Yarkhan, Student Volunteer

It was the beginning of our last semester at the University of Illinois, and with that came the Agricultural and Biological Engineering senior design course, taught by Professor Stephen Zahos. We had the obvious options of the projects dealing with agriculture and bioprocesses, typically for larger companies that would be expected in this course. However, one specific project caught my attention, as it was different from the rest.

It was for Compatible Technology International (CTI), a nonprofit based out of Minnesota that designs and distributes innovative tools that help families in the developing world rise above hunger and poverty. This project specifically targeted optimizing the Elton (left) and Mounir (right) breadfruit shredders. The shredders allow for the utilization of breadfruit, an abundant local crop in Haiti (and other countries with a similar climate) that spoils within 1-3 days of ripening. A process of shredding, grinding and drying the breadfruit allows for it to be utilized by the communities.

CTI’s human centered approach to solving problems and the social nature of this project made it stand out as both a unique and rewarding learning experience. Upon being assigned the project, a team of five of my peers (Anne Cederoth, Melissa Rios-Chavez, Richard Li, Vincent Tio, and Guannan Wang) and I set out to optimize the shredders for CTI.

We went through background documents that ranged from information about breadfruit to information about the target market. We had weekly meetings and tons of back and forth communication with CTI to continue to refine the results we were delivering. And we conducted extensive RPM, productivity, and ease of operation testing on both shredders.

Based on these steps, the team shifted the focus to the Elton shredder. In our opinion, it was the simpler, more productive design. It better took into account concepts of Human Centered Design and was better equipped for the end user’s needs. Ideas were generated for this optimization with the more concentrated goals of reducing cost, reducing the number of parts, simplifying ease of use, simplifying ease of cleaning, simplifying the overall design, and increasing durability.

Our team’s design, shown above, took the concepts of the Elton Shredder and built upon them. Parts were rearranged to separate removable and fixed parts and a hinged door was added for simpler blade removal for cleaning. The frame was updated to be more stable and taller so a chute would not be required to keep the shredded fruit falling in a straight line. The flywheel was changed to a solid mass that could be housed within the frame, and the blade support was flattened to further simplify cleaning.

This design also took into account the use of casting molds for large-scale production. Cost estimates were conducted using aPriori software, yielding a fully burdened cost of producing 100 shredders at $135 each, which was near the cost goals we had set. We believe this is a viable solution for CTI’s breadfruit shredders and hope to see it in reality one day.

Our team could not have asked for a more valuable senior design experience. Not only were each of us able to delve into something we did not previously know and learn along the way, but we also received incredible guidance from the staff at CTI and Prof. Zahos. The most rewarding part of all of this, though, was knowing the entire time that we were innovating technology to make a real difference in people’s lives.

yarkhan_najia-77x 2

Najia Yarkhan attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as an Agricultural and Biological Engineering major, with a Biological concentration. She now lives in San Francisco, working in education technology and pursuing her goals in social entrepreneurship.






The entrepreneurial spirit has always run strong throughout the years at CTI. With every innovation, CTI designs its tools so they are affordable and can improve the livelihoods of as many people as possible. In order to maximize its impact, CTI discourages ‘give aways,’ and instead seeks to inspire entrepreneurs and leaders in the developing world that demonstrate the same enterprising drive as CTI does in the workshop.

Entrepreneurs are risk-taking individuals that aim to innovate by providing a service to help lift up their community as well as themselves. To find these entrepreneurs, CTI partners with organizations such as Village Enterprise, Feed My Starving Children, and CLUSA. In addition, CTI often hires representatives within the local community to forge relationships with innovators and entrepreneurs.

Camarra Mamadou is a stellar example of an entrepreneur. As a Senegalese seed producer, his goal is to process and sell high quality pearl millet grain that is intended to become seed for next year’s crop. He owns about 3 hectares of land in the Mbour region of Senegal, where he employs two people who weed and plant. Mamadou was one of the first entrepreneurs to purchase CTI’s new grain processing tools. Previously, his threshing method resulted in a lot of cracked, poor-quality grain, and about a 10-15% loss with each harvest. With CTI’s tools, he can now produce high quality millet quickly, and lose hardly any grain. He can process seeds so quickly, that he sees a fast return on his investment, while ensuring a better millet harvest for the next year for his entire village. Mamadou’s story exhibits the power of an entrepreneur to make a great impact on entire community


Camarra Mamadou, a Senegalese entrepreneur that uses CTI’s grain tools to produce high quality seed for market sale.

Mamadou is not the only entrepreneur doing important work with CTI’s tools. Women entrepreneurs who purchase grinders often offer a grinding service to neighbors and villages for a small fee, making it a profitable enterprise that allows her to become business and market-savvy, so she can soon become her own employer. In Guyana, entrepreneurs grind peanut butter to sell for school lunches, helping not only themselves but also the next generation.

CTI’s overarching goal is to provide people with the tools to improve their livelihoods and supporting entrepreneurs does even more than that. “Entrepreneurs can help not only themselves, but others to rise above hunger and poverty,” says CTI’s Program Director Wes Meier. “It’s an essential part of our mission.” With that, the ripple effect is clear: by focusing on entrepreneurs CTI rewards imagination and ambition. Entrepreneurs give themselves the opportunity to make a living while benefiting their local community.

Blog pic of Sorcha

Sorcha Douglas is an intern from Macalester College, studying International Studies with a concentration in International Development and a minor in Environmental Studies.