Building Dominic Wanjihu’s Food Dryer

Dominic Wanjihia is from Kenya, and he’s here at Maker Faire Africa in Ghana because of the innovative designs and solutions that he comes up with for problems that ordinary Africans face. We had profiled one of his earlier inventions, an evapocooler for camel milk in Somalia, last year.

He’s been in Accra this last week working in the timber yards in Makola building a food dryer and a food cooler to show at the event. Both of them use air, and the dryer takes advantage of the heat from the sun. More detailed posts will be coming on them, but here’s a few shots of him and the carpenters building the devices.

Dominic Wanjihia in Accra building his food dryer

Plans for the food dryer

Eben building the food racks

Lumber yard in Makola

Fish ‘call’ the Fisherman

Pascal Katana, a Fourth Year student at the Department of Electrical and Information Engineering at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, developed an electronic device that ‘automates’ fishing. The trap employs amplification of the sound made by fish while feeding. The acoustic signals are radiated and attract other fish who head toward the direction of the source thinking there is food there.
Once a good catch is detected by a net weighing mechanism, it triggers a GPRS/GSM device attatched to the system and the fisherman gets a call/sms informing him that his catch is ready. Pascal is in the process of developing a by-catch control system which will ensure that his contraption doesn’t cause overfishing.

Farming Innovations in a Slum

Kibera from space
Kibera from space

Google Earth is one way to appreciate the crush in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum. Not surprisingly popular images of people living in desperate conditions aren’t far from the truth when it comes to this corner of Nairobi – but out of the madness comes a little hope.

Raw sewage flows above ground
Raw sewage flows above ground

I witnessed some amazing innovations in Kibera and conclude that people have adjusted to their situation and are making the most of it.  Because of the stress associated with limitations on land, energy, water, and food the people have found innovative ways of surviving. This post is mainly about farming.

Vertical farming

like this guy and his vertical garden which feeds his family and he even sells some produce. It’s a variation on what JKE wrote about in the post on Keyhole gardens in Botswana.

Like the key hole garden of Swaziland, this veggie patch serves a family on a tiny piece of land
Like the key hole garden of Swaziland, this veggie patch serves a family on a tiny piece of land

Finding land in rubbish

Now a local organic farming company Green Dreams has been documenting the progress of transforming a garbage dump to an organic farm on the Green Dreams blog. They are working with a local youth group comprising reformed criminals in converting garbage into organic manure, and garbage dumps into organic farms.

Before the clean up and farming
Before the clean up and farming
Clearing land of garbage
Clearing land of garbage
installing irrigation
installing irrigation

Irrigation taps the mains water and supplies nutrient rich feeds from organic fertilizer produced on the site from crops and worms, yes they harvested local earthworms to start vermiculture.

Worm farm
Worm farm – just a tray with kitchen wastes feeds a bunch of earthworms that produce organic liquid manure
Planting seedlings
Planting seedlings, cleared waste is bundled under shade cloth and planted with pumpkin to create a green soil erosion barrier

Check out the planting implements, a PVC Pipe adapted to deliver seeds into a perfectly dug hole!  This was invented to help with the back breaking work of planting.

Kibera organic farm - after 3 months
Garbage dump transformed this is the Kibera organic farm – 3 months after clearing the dump

After 3 months the community of 30 families were harvesting, eating and selling organic produce. Yum! Impossible to ignore how a dirty dump turned green, everyone wants a farm in Kibera now. This group is now selling their expertise to raise funds and help others.

Natural Bean Tenderizer

There was a smouldering fire where banana leaves were being reduced to ash, then the ash dissolved in water and the brown murky astringent solution sold for Ksh 50 ($.80) per 250 ml in vodka bottles! This is a bean tenderizer reducing the time to boil red kidney beans by 50%! Imagine the savings on charcoal/fuel.

Safe Dispensing of Fuel

Kerosene is dispensed from a caged petrol pump for security
Kerosene is dispensed from a caged petrol pump for security

Notice that there was no protection around the farm or it’s equipment. Apparently the reputation of these ‘reformed criminals’ is enough of a deterrent.

Kids in Kibera
Kids in Kibera

Life might be hard in Kibera but yet when you visit you can’t ignore the vibrancy, colorfulness, camaraderie amongst the inhabitants it was one time that I got the feeling that people here love life

Fighting Hunger, One Village at a Time

The Universal Nut Sheller (UNS) is part of the Full Belly Project. It’s really an amazing story about a device that has had a direct impact on a number of African countries. The story goes that Jock Brandis, an American inventor, was on a trip to Mali and saw some women who had been shelling peanuts leaving them with bleeding hands. This spurred him on to create a device that would help end hunger.

The Universal Nut Sheller in Africa
(Watch a video of a pedal-powered one in action)

How does it work?

The process works by centrifugal force and friction. The Universal Nut Sheller is basically a concrete cone within a cone, open at the top and bottom, with the interior cone being solid. The interior cone, or rotor, rotates on a shaft and has an attached handle (Note: only one moving part!). The user turns the handle around fast enough to spin the nuts to the outside through centrifugal force. The nuts fall between the surfaces and are rolled and squeezed, allowing the nuts and shells to fall through to the bottom. This mix of nuts and shells is then winnowed out, the old fashioned way.

Reach and Impact
According to the Full Belly Project, this machine is being used in 12 African nations, including; Mali, Uganda, Malawi, DRC, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leon, Sudan and Zambia.

The nut sheller is being used to shell more than just peanuts. As new villages take up the device, they turn it towards their own diverse nut shelling needs, such as jatropha, neem nuts, shea nuts or coffee.

Most importantly, he Universal Nut Sheller costs about $50-75 dollars to make, depending on the price of local materials, and will serve the needs of a village of 200 to 1000 people.

Like two past projects that we’ve highlighted on AfriGadget, this one is encouraging. Both the recently profiled see-saw power machine (possibly), and the KickStart pumps are based on the belief that sustainable economic growth comes through empowering local entrepreneurs to start, or extend, their businesses. In fact, the plans for the UNS are free and downloadable.

(Via Kaushal)