Compatible Technology International (CTI), a nonprofit based in St. Paul, Minnesota, develops simple manual tools that allow farmers in developing countries to move beyond subsistence farming to develop microenterprises. In 2014, CTI launched a pilot program in Senegal that put three new grain tools into the hands of 12,000 people in 51 villages.
Over 90 million people in the developing world depend on pearl millet as the main staple in their diet. In sub-Saharan Africa, 20% of the annual grain harvest is lost due in part to ancient, laborious processing methods. Women and girls often spend several hours each day threshing millet with a mortar and pestle before wind winnowing to separate the grain from the chaff. This produces just enough food for survival.
CTI designed a suite of three tools–the grain stripper, the grain thresher and the grain winnower—that capture 90% of the grain, reducing losses and doubling productivity. This provides a surplus that can be sold directly at the market as grain or as high quality seed. The grain tools are sold at a low cost, fostering an understanding of the products’ value. This sustainable model enables CTI to continue manufacturing and provide training and ongoing support for workers.
Senegal was selected as the site of the launch of these tools in West Africa due to its access to ports and the cooperation of other NGOs and government agencies there. CTI plans to manufacture the tools in Senegal and create a hub to distribute both the tools and training throughout West Africa. With its emphasis on putting the food supply chain into hands of local farmers, CTI was awarded a grant for this project from Feed the Future, an initiative funded by USAID. Another grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provides funds to research and evaluate the long term effects of these tools on rural communities.
Already, CTI has seen many positive outcomes from this project. Family farms, cooperatives and women’s groups form microenterprises that employ others in the community. Women become respected leaders in their villages, and when they aren’t working long hours to help feed their families, girls have enough time to go to school. CTI plans to sell enough grain tools in the upcoming year to impact the lives of 25,000 more people in Senegal.
Find out more about CTI through their website, and check out one their innovations at work in the video below.