AfriGadget Innovator Series: A profile of Frederick Msiska

Peasant farmers are not the first group that come to mind when thinking about innovation but Mr. Frederick Msiska of Nchenachena in the Henga Valley of Northern Malawi is an innovator and in more than just one way. Mr. Msiska, who only attended school until the 5th grade, is a peasant farmer who also happens to be an inveterate inventor and a tinkerer. Among his many creations, he has designed and built a biogas converter for his toilet that he uses to produce electricity. He has also built a cell phone charger of his own design, a fan for his home, both of which use the electricity that he produces as well as a chemical sprayer for use on his farm.

Mr. Frederick Msiska

Mr. Frederick Msiska

Of his inventions and what it took to make it so, he says “I looked around and I found that certain things were missing in my life so I studied very closely things that the government supplies. I made them myself through trial and error. I just kept trying, trying, and trying until they eventually worked.”

Frederick Msiska - Teaching Africa   On the wall of the office of Frederick Msiska

On the wall of the office of Frederick Msiska: a to-do list of things he plans to do -

'Zinchito Mu 2008' (Work in 2008)
- Kuzenga office (Build office)
- Kupanga Luso ( Make things with my skills)
- Kupanga Sipuleya (Make a sprayer)
- Kupanga fani (Make a fan)
- Kupanga magetsi (Make electricity)
- Bio-gas light

Frederick is also a “lead farmer” – a designation local government gives to thought leaders in agriculture in an area who give advice and direction on best farming practice and techniques. He is also known around his area as the “Doctor of crops” due to his farming expertise and adoption of every sustainable farming techniques he comes across.

Frederick on his farm  Frederick Msiska at his macademia tree nursery.  Frederick Msiska with his homemade chemical sprayer.

Frederick on his farm / at his macademia tree nursery and with his self-made chemical sprayer

Mzamose Gondwe, who runs the blog African Science Heroes spoke to Mr Msisaki and was distraught to learn that he has taken apart his biogas toilet due to (unwarranted) fears about imprisionment after word came out to him about the travails of another rural inventor, Gabriel Kondesi. Gabriel who has invented a radio station using an old cassette player, Nokia cellphone, some electrical components and antennae. What he did not know was that the root reason behind this particular arrest was the running of a radio station without appropriate licensing, an ovresite that the licensing body, the Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) later fixed when the recognized Gabriel’s ingenuity and awarded him a license.

Mr. Msisaki is the picture of humility: when asked about his inventions and achievements, he presents the view that “… farmers do not contribute to national development, it is only those who are educated who contribute to development.” He story and achievements however are truly the epitome of what we profile here at AfriGadget with the focus that we have on the appropriate application of ingenious African technology in every day problem solving.

via African Science Heroes: Communicating science, the African way and Self Help Africa.

5 comments » Write a comment

  1. I think most famous inventors are probably a lot like Msiska, where they find something that they need to help make their lives easier and try to improve the existing options. I love the idea of creating your own electricity as well and since we have a ways to go before solar energy becomes a viable option, both from a technological standpoint and a cost one, things like a biogas converter are very practical…

  2. Erik,

    Oh, wow. I have to say that I’m very impressed- I have background in Physics and Mechanical Engineering and I love inventing in ultra-resourceful ways like this, I dare say it’s a core passion of mine… but Frederick takes the Apollo 13 prize for ‘in situ’ ingenuity in my book.

    We were actually ruminating on the feasibility and benefits of an innovation contest that might involve people like Mr. Msiska. The details and balance of such a thing are a bit fuzzy, but if you’re interested in chatting offline about this topic I’d love to talk your ear off.

    Cheers,
    Sean Conner

  3. Pingback: L’Afrique des inventeurs | Pour ceux qui aiment le Net

  4. Pingback: Altavoces que son garrafas y cocos con cremallera - periodismohumano

  5. Pingback: Innovadores en AfriGadget: Frederick Msiska « EspAfriGadget