We are not really sure if this homemade aircraft will ever manage to take off (or land), but – according to the following reports aired on Kenyan TV a few days ago – I.T. specialist Gabriel Nderitu from Kahawa West in Kenya obviously spent much love & funds on building his very own aircraft.
Our avid readers will certainly remember Mubarak Abdullahi’s home-made helicopter in Nigeria, the homemade helicopter in Somaliland as well as this odd story on someone who claims to having built a single seater aircraft way back in the 1970s from an old VW Beetle engine (hey, at least air-cooled, the way it’s supposed to be). The important and innovative part, it seems, is that these guys were willing and able to invest time and money into their projects – even though success is uncertain.
This gadget was created to solve a real problem with biogas – getting the dung to the system quickly and efficiently. Motorbikes are the taxi’s of Africa so why not? Before I tell you about the above gadget I just want to remind you about the problems we have been having to solve to get the biogas to work at home.
Installing biogas at home has a real experience in afrigadget – we have figured out by trial and error how to get the gas under pressure –
At first we tried using water pressure, but when we stepped back and looked at it we realized that it really wasn’t simple or appropriate for bush applications ..
In fact, all we needed to do was to put pressure on the bags.
The pressure wasn’t enough to run the stove until we modified the stove jets by enlarging them slightly.
Next we had to figure out how to get the dung to my digester – you see I don’t own cows but my neighbors who live a few kilometers away do and are selling it at a very nice rate of Ksh 50 (70 US cents) for two large buckets . The owners are happy to see the dung as it accumulates in the nighttime stockades and attracts annoying flies that carry diseases if left on the land.
The problem I face is common to many folks around here, we rent houses but we don’t have livestock. But there are huge cattle farms around us. So Dominic came up with a solution that creates jobs and moves poop quickly and efficiently.
So we went to the local juakali welder on the roadside to create a dungmobile ..a trailer designed specially for cow dung!
We tested it with a human load to ensure it is balanced … each bucket weighs about 50 kg.
And the first delivery arrived without a problem! 🙂 Big Thanks to Dominic Wanjihia who seems to always have a simple solution to any problem.
I know you are wondering, if it’s that easy, then why doesn’t everyone use biogas?
Now that I’ve got biogas running my kitchen I wonder why so few people have done so in Kenya. There are countless articles, publications, websites and people who will tell you that biogas is the most economical and environmentally sustainable way to produce energy. In fact, the benefits of Biogas have been known for tens of years, and hundreds of systems have been built in Kenya. But it hasn’t really taken off – few of the installed systems are actually working and the uptake of biogas systems at a domestic level has been slower than slow – it’s virtually non-existent. A review of biogas in Kenya reports that technical breakdowns has discouraged uptake but the main limiting factor is cost.
Here’s a simple comparison of costs – from continuing using charcoal/fuelwood or Kerosene and LPG to using various biogas options.
Cost (US$ )
Time to install (days)
1,500 – 2000
2,000 – 3,500
Flexi bag envelope
10 – 15 years
Fuelwood or LPG cylinders
200 (per year)
For a simpleton like me these figures are immediately revealing – it takes 2 years to pay off a flexibag digester after which domestic fuel is free for at least the next 10 – 13 years. For the underground systems you have got to be hugely rich, or suffering from environmental guilt to make the decision to switch to biogas – from an economic perspective it will take 10 to 20 years to pay back. You could grow your own trees and make your own charcoal in that time frame….
Why is it so expensive for the constructed biogas systems? Because most of the biogas systems in use are constructed systems requiring engineering and masonry, they are very expensive, take weeks to install, require experts, and intensive follow up. If they go wrong it’s a major engineering task to fix it. This is why we are promoting the flexible bag option for domestic and small industry use.
Congratulations to Skylink Award winning Kenyan biogas innovators
I thought skylink was an airline… Biogas operated planes???
Their industrial scale system costs Ksh 1.6 million (US$ 19,753). Such installations may need to be financed by the Government institutions where they clearly make enormous economic and environmental sense for schools, prisons and other large institutions.
For small scale house hold units, we need solutions that will compete against the cost of installing LPG or using charcoal, firewood or kerosene stoves. When we talked to local Maasai near Nairobi they found the flexi bag systems appealing because they could be purchased with the sale of just 2 or 3 cows, can be rolled up and moved when they migrate, and it saves the women the work of searching for firewood, it’s hygenic because water can be heated for bathing children, while it also removes dangerous piles of rotting cow dung near the homesteads which are breeding sites for biting and disease carrying flies which affect livestock and people.
There was a major announcement today from Nokia about the release of cheap phones for the emerging markets, featuring dual sims and the ever useful LED flashlight. What is even more interesting is that with the launch of the phones, a bicycle charger kit. According to CNET Asia, the kit will be available by year’s end.
Rounding up the announcements today is the Bicycle Charger Kit, which comprises a charger, dynamo and phone holder. When docked to the latter with a 2mm charger jack, the electrical generator will produce energy to juice up the handset. According to Nokia, the dynamo starts charging when the speed of the bicycle reaches 6kmh and stops when it hits 50kmh. It matches the efficiency of a normal charger when the bike is traveling at 12kmh.
The bicycle charger kit will be useful to many people in Kenya and other emerging markets, its only a matter of time before it is repurposed to charge other devices like small radios. All in all the phones seem AfriGadgetty, what with their dual sims; perfect for markets where people have more than one carrier – thinking of Nigeria here, where its not uncommon to see someone with multiple phones because of varying network coverage/dependability + LED flashlights, it is clear that Nokia is making products that have utility for millions of people around Africa. Personally I can’t wait to try out the phones and mobile kits as soon as I can get my hands on them. Come to think of it, this is hardware localization, something that could go hand in hand with the software localization we are clamoring for in the African market.
For modded bicycle posts from the AfriGadget archive, click here.
Many thanks to my friend Cyrus for the heads up, I think he has just inspired me to blog again.
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.
These are the kinds of stories and projects that you just can’t make up. We’ve written about Nigerian Mubarak Abdullahi’s home made helicopter a couple years ago from old car parts. It appears that 3 Somaliland men built a helicopter too, using scrap metal and an old van engine.
Much like the Nigerian one, there is no video footage of this one flying. It’s not easy to build a machine that looks and acts like a helicopter, but it’s a lot easier than making one that flies. It does take a lot of drive, thinking and skill to build even these models, but I won’t be truly impressed until I see a video of one taking off and landing.
“The trio, Mohamed Abdi Barkadle, Saed Abdi Jide and Abdi Farah Lidan said the purpose of their helicopter was to be used to fight fire in the city and surrounding area. They receive no major sponsors, financial nor material support from any one including the government, it is a three men vision and ingenuity.”
Now, the question is… Could we get the three (and the helicopter) to Maker Faire Africa in Nairobi this August?
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