“Safety First!”, you may think while watching the following video, but if the cheap (Chinese) polyethylene (?) extension cables just break too often due to rough handling and their low quality, chances are that someone will come up with an alternative. Like this young man in Kenya:
(no subtitles available on this one, sorry)
A young man from Kiandutu slums in Thika had always wanted to be an electrical engineer, but lack of fees denied him a chance to further his studies. And yet this has not dampen his resolve to put his mark on the world of electrical engineering.For starters, he has devised a way of making wooden extension cables, which as NTV’s Jane Ngoiri reports, is causing quite a stir in his neighbourhood. (src)
A max current set by the fuse and wooden frames that may easily burn or conduct electricity while wet probably aren’t the best conditions for this hardware hack, but hey: there’s obviously a demand for such an extension cable.
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.
If your dream was to become a doctor and you ended up uneducated and living in a slum, would you just give up on life? Some of us might have, but not Jane Ngoiri. Jane dreamed of being a surgeon, but she was too poor to finish school or go to college. However, today Jane is a Mitumba queen from Nairobi’s Mathare Valley slum. Mitumba is the business of selling second hand clothing that arrives in Kenya from European and American regions in massive bales.
Mitumba originally referred to used clothing but today it includes everything from clothes to shoes, bags and even kitchen utensils. Huge markets have sprouted in Nairobi where the traders buy selected items when bales are first opened, and sell them in nicely arranged stalls elsewhere. It’s easy to see how mitumba provides hundreds of jobs for the juakali but everyone is doing it and the competition is intense so prices and profits are low. Jane came up with a clever way of getting past this by finding a unique niche. Unlike most Mitumba operators who simply sell second hand clothing, Jane adds value by taking the clothes apart and re-making clothing that Kenyans want for their children, especially daughters.
Her specialty is girls dresses, frilly, lacy dresses for special occasions, and Sunday bests. You would never find this kind of thing in Mitumba – western kids don’t wear this kind of thing. Jane buys used wedding dresses for Ksh 500 (USD 7) and from each one she can create three girls dresses and sell each for Ksh 1,500 (USD 21).
It takes her only 45 minutes to sew each one and she can make and sell up to 40 per month making a tidy profit which has literally allowed her to climb out of poverty.
Janes may not be the slumb dog millionaire but her story of escaping a slum life is humbling. I went to see Jane at home – she now owns her very own two bedroom orange and green house in a new housing development just outside of the city. She has running water, sitting room, a huge kitchen with gas stove, an inside flush toilet and solar lighting.
I visited her former home I n the slum, It’s hard to imagine how anyone could live in a room six foot by five, with just one bed. The mud floor was covered with a plastic mat but the water in the saturated ground seeped through.
Outside might have been disgusting, but inside the the corrugated iron room was but super neat and carefully arranged. On the bed sat the new tenant, 34 year old Catherine with her two daughters Cynthia (17) and Samantha (3). Her 12 year old son was out. To her right was someone else’s room , and to the left a changaa den (changaa is an illegal distilled alcoholic brew). Behind her were three other rooms.
The room measured about 6 x 6 feet – a prison cell! It was slimy and muddy everywhere, the evil sewage and rotting vegetable smells and the ugly structures were not nearly as invasive as the, noise. It seemed like everyone in Mathare was competing to make the loudest noise, – every room had a radio on full blast as well as the changaa brewing and drinking dens which nearly outnumber homes. Drunkards (all men) filled the street, and pestered us every few minutes, the community just ignored them as they stumbled down the hill. Children, some without shoes ran around and played in the mud, open sewers and picked through rubbish. After seeing where Jane has come from I can totally understand why she can’t stop smiling.
Her three children are no longer surrounded by filth and noise, changaa dens and drunkards. They play out doors safely, are clean and neat, and they go to school near home. This family eats well as they grow their own vegetables in a garden kitchen. And Jane is no longer just one of the million slum dwellers in Mathare, here in Kaputei, she is a respected member of a budding community.
Janes life story is nothing short of miraculous. Like everyone else in Mathare, she lived in the slum because she had no other option. When her husband took a second wife so many years ago, she walked out on him and headed for the city, four children in tow, including a baby. She thought she’d be able to get a job, but like many uneducated women her only means of survival in one of Nairobi’s toughest slums, was to use her body. That’s how she survived for many years, doing what she called “dirty business” living from hand to mouth in the filthy, noisy, congested squalor of Mathare Valley, with all her children crammed in one room.
Jane is the poster child of microcredit success, it got her out of poverty and she says it saves her life. She got training and a loan from Jamibora, one of the largest micro credit banks in Kenya. Once she’d paid that back she got another loan, and then a third. This made her eligible for membership in a housing scheme, but first she had to rise 10% of the value of the house, Ksh35,000 ($450). With her earlier loans she had bought a manual sewing machine, using that she made dresses and beaded jewelry for an international market. It sounds easy but she says it was very hard to raise the money. There were hurdles along the way and at times she almost gave up her dream. Perhaps the toughest was the election crisis struck in early 2008 when looters raided the slums and took everything she owned. Without a sewing machine she had lost her means of making a living.
So Jamibora gave her an emergency loan which enabled her to get back on her feet straight away. Sitting in her proud two bedroomed house in Kaputei Jane glows, it’s hard to disbelieve her story. But there’s more. She wouldn’t let me go until I’d heard the whole story. After getting back her life the first time, Jane decided to find out what her HIV status was. Not surprising, it was positive. Despite this she was in good health, but again she asked God to help – she needs to live long enough to pay off the 20 year loan. She promised to help other slum women by giving free lessons in sewing, after all she never paid for her own classes. So far Jane has taught three others including Catherine.
Are you inspired? Here’s a question, can you guess why Jane painted her house orange and green?
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)
The Ministry of Higher Education and Technology has organized a Robot Contest (RoboCon), between Kenyan Universities and middle level colleges. The regional competition is taking place today at the Kenya Polytechnic. Here are the first looks at the Robots from institutions taking part in the competition.
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.