Deep in Kariokor, a slum and a hub of Nairobi’s juakali leather industry, you can’t miss spotting Drogba hard at work at his home made leather press.
Drogba’s leather press is an assembly of diverse components.
The fly wheels are made up of two used conveyor pulleys full of concrete. These are joined together by two used second hand vehicle half shafts.
The half shafts are connected to an old bench vice screw (hope you are singing along here)
The screw is connected to a press foot
(all together now) “Oh hear the world of the lord” (tune of the kids song Dry Bones)
The print plates are placed on the base of the press frame.
When Drogba spins the fly wheels, he sandwiches the leather between the press plate and press foot producing perfect permanent imprints in the leather
This method is used for most of Kenya’s printed leather products, a huge industry that includes Maasai beaded belts, menu covers, wallets, passport holders, belts, key holders, coasters, handbags, purses, and many fashion accessories and leather souvenir products.
Drogba is 18 years old and works a good 12 hours per day on a casual wage. He has just completed high school and is looking for a college placement. As you can imagine, he’s a huge fan of his soccer celebrity lookalike and namesake.
(special thanks to Dominic Wanjihia for this contribution)
I have just spent a week in the field studying Masailand ecology and community conservation with Princeton University students. The location is not that remote (Kitengela and Olerai within 40 km of Nairobi) and the community are wonderfully resourceful when it comes to day to day tools for pastoralism.
Tractor tyre trough for water for goatsand sheep
This old tractor or truck tyre was somehow cut, opened up and sealed at either end to make a perfectly good livestock watering trough. Even Joy Adamson noted that the Masai question using modern appliances if home made ones do the job anyway.
Tractor tyre cattle salt lick
Another way to make a salt lick, Evelyn just cut a truck tyre in half and placed it on the ground supported by stumps.
home made bucket works perfectly
Why buy a bucket when you can just make one with an old water container and a piece of metal?
Home made shovel
And if you don’t have a shovel for your manure, just straighten out some corrugated iron, cut it and nail to a stick and Presto – probably more effective than anything you could buy in Nairobi. Manure is one of the few products sold to passing trucks on these remote ranches.
Keeping land open for wildlife migrations in and out of Nairobi National Park can be costly to those living with wildlife. Those in The Wildilfe Foundations land lease scheme earn 4$ per acre per year to keep the properties open (no fences) and to supplement their income they make beautiful beaded artworks for sale on Olerai Conservancy.
It might look like a tough life for some of us, but the Masai out here seem perfectly satisfied and at peace
Here’s another interesting idea from Dominic Wanjihia (see links to his other gadgets below) – the fuel efficient Sufuria. A sufuria is the aluminium pan that is used by virtually everyone in Kenya to make tea, ugali and for cooking vegetables. Like all pots that we use, energy is wasted around the sides of the pot. In Africa this is expensive as fuel be it gas, kerosene or charcoal is expensive.
This is what it looks like when assembled
This is what it is comprised of – two sufurias to make one efficient one. Basically a hole is cut out of the bigger sufuria – and the piece cut out becomes the lid so nothing is wasted. To wash the sufuria you just dismantle the pieces by just slipping it out. The heat that otherwise escapes around the edge of the pan, is trapped between the cooking pot and it’s sleeve.
Though it’s not in production, Dominic is using this sufuria at home and swears that it saves at least 50-75% energy on a kerosene stove (his estimate is based on how long it’ takes to boil water).
While hiking in the rift valley recently I came across a cow wearing this plastic gadget on his nose. It’s made from an old plastic container …..the local herdsmen said it was to stop him from suckling his mother – which is especially critical due to the severe drought in the region.
Simple and effective I’d say!
And here’s another one from Dominic Wanjihia – he calls it his vertical shamba
and it’s water efficient and space conserving… perfect for a tiny yard.
Here’s another clever use of plastic water bottles – bird feeders are impossible to find in Kenya
So Maina Maina fabricated this at Kitengela Glass where virtually nothing is thrown away
These feeders have pieces of mirrors attached and attract a huge assortment of birds at all times. He’s selling them at Ksh 200 (US $2.50 )
I’m scrambling to put my bags together for Ghana, as I leave in just a day for Maker Faire Africa. There’s only one problem, I don’t have everything that I need, and I’m waiting on a shipment from a California bag company. The good news: I’ve just been told that I’m no longer sworn to secrecy, so I can begin telling the story. Here is the FLAP bag project story (from my perspective) and AfriGadget’s involvement in it.
A little background
Four months ago the Pop!Tech team approached me about their collaborative project with Sheila Kennedy of the Portable Light project, who showed off her solar TB blanket at Pop!Tech 2008, and Timbuk2, the well-known messenger bag company.
Their plan was to develop a bag that has the potential to bring the benefits of portable power to selected global communities around the globe, and they were hoping the I could help with distribution and testing within the African communities that I frequent, where power is crucial. Of course, I jumped right in, this was just too intriguing to not do so, plus I have great admiration for all of the players: Pop!Tech, Timbuk2 and Sheila Kennedy.
The FLAP bag project
FLAP stands for Flexible Light And Power. The flap on the messenger bag has the single solar panel on it, connected to the tech tray, which has an on/off switch, an LED light and a USB connection. So, in concept, the bag can be used as a portable lighting and power supply unit for anyone. Most useful however, to those lacking consistent power for devices or an electric lighting option.
This bag will be the official Pop!Tech 2009 bag, and will also be sold by Timbuk2 sometime after that. It’s a unique bag that has the potential to change the way a lot of people (not just in Africa) do things. I don’t have detailed information on any of that, so look to the Pop!Tech team for more information on availability.
AfriGadget’s part in this
Due to my fairly extensive travels, dealing with just the right cross section of potential users for the bag, I was in the right place to distribute some test bags for feedback from end-users. My job, over the next three weeks will be to find the right types of people to give a bag to, interview them before and after, and report back on my findings.
My first stop is Ghana, then on to Kenya and Uganda. I have 10 FLAP bags, with plans to hand out 4 in Ghana, 4 in Kenya and 2 in Uganda. To do the interviews, I will have the help of Henry Addo in Ghana (also a colleague or mine at Ushahidi), and with David Ngigi in Kenya (a young videographer and friend). Pop!Tech has supplied us with small video cameras that we’ll be using for the interviews, as well as some starter questions and types of individuals that they would like to see get the bag.
My objective is to find people from many walks of life, from taxi drivers to citizen journalists, and from roadside food ladies to seamstresses. One of my questions is this: can much of this bag be created from locally available materials?
My main goal: find out if it is useful, usable and if its adaptable to everyday life in Africa. The Challenge: asking people how they would adopt these kits, looking for inventiveness.
I won’t be sugar-coating my own reviews, nor those of the people who we interview.
Tune in for more tomorrow
My next post will be pictures of the kits, unboxing of the items that I have received and my initial opinions on them. I’ll also be doing some personal interviews (video diary) of myself throughout the weeks ahead, giving some insights into the day’s events and overall thoughts on the FLAP bag project.
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