Kevin Becker recently moved to Kenya and built this great DIY three-wheeler for his son.
“My son wants to be outside all of the time. This three-wheel cart allows him to pedal himself around like Fred Flintstone, or I can push him from behind with the handle. The larger wheels are good for the rough terrain on our farm. He can turn the front wheel to steer himself, or I can tilt the cart back so the front wheel is off the ground when I need to steer.”
The Three-Wheeler in action:
“Except for the wood, I used parts that I had on hand which I brought with me from the U.S., but I’m sure everything could be found here in Kenya. The wheels came from golf club bag carts, but any spare wheels, around 10″ diameter, should work. The rear handle and front wheel support are made from 1″ PVC. The front handle is 3/4″ PVC.The seat is a piece of spongy foam used for padding your knees when doing yard work.”
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“Apply Nairobi ingenuity and waterproof your house!”
Talking about reusable materials, here’s another popular reuse: a football / soccer ball made using old plastic bags, newspapers and sisal string. Demonstrated by the kids at The Nest Home, a children’s home in Limuru, Kenya:
It’s cheap, it works, it wins! 🙂
We actually prefer these creative toys as the kids learn how to MAKE things – instead of just buying cheap Chinese toys.
Miniature versions of vehicles are as popular with kids in Cameroon as anywhere else. Adult craftsmen across the continent use materials such as wire, beads and recycled cans to create toy bicycles, trucks and airplanesmany of which transcend the level of children’s toys and are nothing short of art objects. Indeed, some of these creations are produced for corporate clients and international buyers.
No less ingenious and fascinating are toys created by and for kids themselves, usually from the simplest of materials and tools. This includes items like toy tractors (Kenya) and SUVs (Uganda) made from recycled plastic bottles.
In Cameroon, one such popular toy crafted by kids is a ‘remote controlled’ car or ATV. These are often built from discarded flip-flops (slippers), sardine tins, bamboo or raffia palm, electrical conduit (pipe), rubber and bits of string. A variation on this theme that incorporates a split bamboo steering column and a full-sized wire steering wheel was blogged by Steve in the northwest of the country.
It’s not difficult to spot toy cars like this being piloted by kids in Cameroonthe trick is usually being able to catch up with them to photograph one. A big advantage of this design is its ability to handle rough terrain when being driven at speed. The bamboo frame, chunky tires and rubber fasteners suck up bumps in the road like a 4WD Toyota. The proud builder of this R/C all-terrain vehicle paused long enough to demonstrate his creation for me.
It is one thing to drool over the coming digital age in Africa just by studying the numbers, charts and info-graphics. It is a whole other experience to encounter the early signs of all of those numbers and projections in real life. An even bigger experience when you stumble upon genius in the making right in your back yard.
Remember these kids that built their own toys? Turns out creative genius runs in my family. (Must have skipped right over me, this gift. Le sigh.)
As I was leaving my mother’s house in Masindi after an all too brief visit, I stopped into the boys quarters to say bye to my little brother and two of my nephews. They were busy listening to the radio and I was wondering where the radio came from cause certainly my mother wouldn’t afford them such a luxury.
My jaw dropped and Afrigadget logos started spinning above my head in excitement all cartoon-style! After pestering my mother to get them a radio for the room they used as their club house to no avail. They decided to just embark on building one themselves.
So while on holiday from school, my brother Caleb, 12; my nephews Ronald, 15 and Jesse, 12 rounded up some scrap parts and built what you see above in about a day. I didn’t have enough time to interview them properly, but man was I smiling all the way to Kampala.
Mind you that this was done out of curiosity and not some educational endeavor. Can you imagine what else Africa’s kids could build given even a slight revamp of the education system? With nearly 50% of our population under the age of 15, just how many curious minds are just waiting for an opportunity to do something like this?
As an aside, you can’t tell me you would have thought to use a jerrican as a boombox! That’s just beyond mad genius. Anyone know of cheap engineering kits I could get them to continue to play?
Amid the squalor in one of Kenya’s most depressing slums, there is a surprising amount of flashy colour and fun
Njuguna makes these toys because he like to! His clients are local people in the slum but he does sell well outside of that market too.
I was especially enthralled by this scrap metal motorbike but the price was Ksh 2,500 (US$ 30) which may have been a special price for visitors like me – I couldn’t afford it!
Scrap metal gocart – boys in heaven!
Njuguna also makes beautiful micro toys for a specialist corporate market – they had been sold but he had photos
You guessed it – client was Safaricom!
Amongst all the toys were some other serious gadgets that Njuguna had put together for no specific reason -a couple of free standing windmills rotate rapidly in the narrow streets that channel the wind. They stand there like artistic monuments, but Njuguna told me that he made these constructions made from parts taken from broken cars and had put them out and was waiting for an idea to strike him regarding what to apply them to. He called it his research experiment. … somewhere else lay another of his inventions, a waterpump …..(should I have suggested something?)
Kids play by open sewer in Mathare Valley
Visiting Kibera was disturbing in so many ways
….and yet it was thoroughly invigorating and inspiring – a pleasant surprise . If you ever get a chance, do visit and seek out the Njuguna’s tucked away in narrow streets. These brilliant artists and innovators might live in what seems like the worst hell on earth, yet somehow it feels like they choose to.
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