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2009 Updates: See Work at Hampshire College, California State University Channel Islands, Mali, and Ghana pages.


This is the IDDS 2008 pearl millet thresher home page. The purpose of this project is to design and prototype an affordable, efficent thresher for pearl millet. This wiki documents our paths and progress during 3 intense weeks working in MIT's D-Lab to achieve that goal. Other D-Lab projects are documented on www.appropedia.org/IDDS and you can also listen to a report on NPR and see a video on The Christian Science Monitor.

Background: Pearl millet is a common grain foodstuff, called "bajra" in Hindi, "mil" in French, and "mahangu" in Namibian. Here are some videos of how the millet is pounded to separate it from the stalk and florets, and to make flour:
Girl Pounding Millet
Fulani girls pounding millet ***** March 2006
Fulani Women pounding millet March 2006
Ben and Seth in Mali - kids pounding millet
Senegal Pounding Millet and making flour

Threshing machines
have a long history, although their design principles have been largely static since the mid 1800's. They come in a variety of sizes, prices, and throughputs. Nevertheless, much of the millet threshing in rural Africa and India is still done by slow manual pounding that consumes up to 4 hours/day of women's time, and results in blisters and repetitive stress injuries. Threshing is followed by winnowing to clean the grain.

Our goal is to make a radically simple, reliable, and inexpensive millet threshing (and ideally winnowing) machine, appropriate for small (<~ 1 acre) farmers. Ideally the machine will be built from locally available materials and parts, and be servicable with locally available skills, tools, and materials. It should be inherently safe, as young children are common in rural areas and often curious about machines. We are also interested in the applicability of the design towards threshing other small grains such as amaranth.

Problem Statement
Stakeholder Diagram
Idea Generation
Gallery sketches
2nd Design Review
Design for Final Presentation
Final Presentation pdf (attached below)
Contact us

Collaborating NGO's, Agencies and Individuals
Jeffrey P. Wilson USDA-ARS, pearl millet researcher of 20+ years, has kindly shared his extensive knowledge on pearl millet as it is farmed, processed and consumed in Sub-Saharan Africa. He has also supplied us with an ample supply of pearl millet stalks, and been an enthusiastic supporter of our efforts.

Rolfe Leary, Engineer and volunteer with Compatible Technologies International (CTI). Rolfe and CTI volunteers have also been working to develop a low-cost method for threshing pearl millet. Rolfe has generously shared his insights and experiences related to this project and has been an enthusiastic collaborator.

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Adobe Portable Document Format FinalPresentation5Aug08sm.pdf (Adobe Portable Document Format - 746k)
posted by rasnow   Aug 10 2008, 6:24 PM EDT
final presentation