Wednesday, March 24, 2010

San Salvador AgroExpo Day 4

By LeAnn Taylor, CTI Volunteer, El Salvador

It will be my 4th day at the AgroExpo today and I have made some very important contacts. There are currently 5 very interested people who want to both make and sell the grinders here, and two more who just want to manufacture them. I plan to visit at least three workshops tomorrow. One vendor had the idea of modifying the in-country burrs so they could be used on our bodies. Then the users could have our burrs for their dry goods and the local ones for making corn masa. It's a great idea because the local taste does not like the texture that our burrs make for masa and yet it's the most common food they grind here.

Another thing that has been very fun is: we have invited the skeptical inquirers to bring their product in for a test. As a result, we have had three people bring corn, hibiscis, and lemon grass. Of course, the grinder performed perfectly making both course pieces for tea and fine for products like soap. I think we'll have two sales from those. The spices smelled wonderful and the hibiscis turned everything on the grinder pink.

The Salvadorans are wonderfully warm and friendly and also very entrepreneurial. They really love the new business idea when they see it. I am feeling very optimistic about this project.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Arrival in San Salvador

Last year, CTI was contacted by CENTA (Center for Agrarian and Forest Technology), an arm of El Salvador’s Department of Agriculture, to help the organization promote the grinding of sorghum. Sorghum is a nutritious grain that grows in El Salvador in contrast with wheat, which is much more expensive, less nutritious, and has to be imported. There is a big demand for grinders in El Salvador to grind corn, wheat, and sorghum into flour, and although there are other grinders available in El Salvador, CTI’s devices are much better in quality and are even less expensive.

I traveled to El Salvador last summer to explore how CTI can help with sorghum grinding. I brought a wood grinder model, a new option that was developed by CTI so that manufacturers in El Salvador would be able to make the grinder body themselves, a lower-cost alternative. The response from locals was very enthusiastic. Many people wanted CTI’s grinders, but unfortunately, without an in-country distributor to supply and market the grinders, CTI’s equipment could only be exposed to a small number of people, and grinders would only be available by shipping them from our headquarters in Saint Paul, an expensive and slow process.

I am now returning to El Salvador to increase CTI’s visibility in the agricultural community and to look for a local distributor. I'm just getting in after a 10 hour day demonstrating CTI grinders at an AgroExpo in San Salvador, El Salvador. You can't believe how many people there are coming through that place; they say it's 100,000 per day. The Expo is is just like the Minnesota State Fair - a large campus with several buildings, animal corrals, and horses going through the crowd.

I made some good connections today and I think I've already sold the extra grinder I brought with me for demonstration. There was much interest in the wooden grinder, more than I would have expected, and I met at least 3 people who were sincerely interested in becoming vendors, maybe even manufacturers.

Vilma, my contact with CENTA, tells me that her organization will begin expanding its sorghum promotion into Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua within two months and she has the support of all of CENTA, even the Agriculture Minister, so that is looking very positive as well.

On Tuesday, I hope to visit a women's cooperative that wants a grinder, so it looks like I'll get into the field after all.