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    Michael Otieno (Center) explaining a point to a customer at the National Science Technology Innovation Week at KICC, Nairobi on 24th August 2017.

    A Kisumu based entrepreneur is taking advantage of Kenya’s ban on plastic bags to produce Eco-friendly paper bags from water hyacinth menace in Lake Victoria.

    Michael Otieno, the founder of Takawiri Craft Enterprises turned the problem into a business opportunity. He has been using the weed and re-cycled waste paper to make business cards, book covers, and envelopes since 2011. In 2016 he started making gift bags which he sells together with the rest of the items to maintain sustainable livelihood.

    “My enterprise is part of the environmental solution in fighting the effects of the weed in Kenyan lakes” says Michael.The weed has affected the socio-economic livelihoods of many fishermen in Lake Victoria as it depletes oxygen leading to dwindling fish population. Michael thinks this can be solved by mechanizing the removal of the weed so as to assist fishermen fish easily and increase the fish in the lake. 

    He was the winner of the 3rd prize in the Small and Medium Enterprises Category (SMEs) in 2016 and was a participant in this year’s National Science Technology and Innovation Week which was held at the Kenyatta International Convention Center from 24th August to 25th August 2017.

    Michael who completed high school in 2010 started his enterprise after attending training offered by a Non-Governmental Organization in Kisumu. With an initial capital of 10,000 shillings, he purchased a pulping machine.

    gift bag takawiri.jpg

    A sample of a gift bag made from water hyacinth by Takawiri Craft Enterprises 

    He currently employs 5 to 10 casuals who collect the weed from the shores of Lake Victoria manually by hand. The weed is then transported to his business premises where it’s chopped using knives and then dried on the sun with the aid of his 5 permanent employees. It takes approximately 8 to 12 hours for the weed to dry but depending on the weather patterns it may take 2 days to be completely dry.

    After it has dried, the weed is crushed using a pulping machine and mixed with water then suspended on a wire frame where particles are sieved and the remainder is used to make pulp.

    Once the paper is dry, it is passed through a calendaring machine which presses the paper to obtain a smooth finish.

    READ ALSO: Water hyacinth provides good substrate for mushroom farming

    READ ALSO: Water hyacinth turned to animal feed

    One of the major challenges Michael has encountered is inadequate capital to mechanize the production of the paper. “The whole process from weed collection to production of paper is manual in which I produce at least 100 sheets of paper per day” noted Michael.

    With increased demand for his products, he is seeking support from the government so as to enable him purchase machines to make the production of paper faster and easy.

    Some of his clienteles include the Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC),  gift shops and book publishers who make orders of up to 2,000 items per month. Michael sells an A4 gift bag for 150 shillings and an A5 for 75 shillings. However, the items are tailor made to suit customers’ demands.

    He can be reached on 0720668591/0720449758 or by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



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            calving detector.jpg

            Calving detector, new dairy technological method to monitor calving in cows.

    Farmers can now know when their cows are about to give birth from whatever distance they are, thanks to calving detector.

    Described by dairy experts as individual-cow maternity monitoring device, calving detector was developed by a French manufacturer Medria and it has been tested in most parts of the world.

    This system uses thermometer equipped boluses inserted intervaginally in cows, typically a week after their anticipated due date.

    “With this set and connected with mobile phones, a farmer will receive a text message on activated bolus and the time and date it was inserted,” said Justine Kinaro, vet nary expert.

    He says texted alert message can be sent to up to six pre-programmed cell-phone members.

    The thermometer will detect a significant drop in temperature signaling labour time and that delivery is eminent within about 48 hours.

    READ ALSO: Kisii farmer manages dairy cows from Meru via mobile phone

    READ ALSO: Smart tool tells farmers cows are ripe for artificial insemination

    READ ALSO: Technology offers cheaper dairy cows

    Another text message is sent when the animal’s water breaks and the bolus expelled. This can be programmed with allowance of time for natural labouring.

    “This can help farmers at night and while away in other functions to monitor their cows which are about to give birth,” said Kinaro.

    Necessary assistance can therefore be arrange for to the cow if need be.

    Kinaro says that these gadgets are still unavailable in Kenyan market and that dairy farmers can make orders for these gadgets at $15 which is about Sh1547.

    Anyway for farmers who cannot afford this, it is advisable that they can monitor by themselves a number of activities exhibited by the cow when about to give birth.

    These include increased lying and standing events, increased tail movements and decreased rumination.


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    hybrid drier photo by KEMFRI.jpg

    Woman drying mango chips. The hybrid drier uses solar or wind energy to drive off moisture from farm products to extend the shelflife. Photo by KEMFRI.

    The Kenya Marine and Fisheries Institute (KEMFRI) has come up with a drier machine using wind and solar power to remove excess moisture from farm products to reduce post harvest looses.

    The United Nation’s agency Food and Agricultural Organmisation says more than 40 per cent of the global farm produce goes to waste. The waste starts from the farm up to the table of the consumer.

    The hybrid drier is powered by the energy harnessed from the fan-like turbine erected on a wind obstruction free area. It can also be powered by solar, which is harnessed directly from panels or indirectly heated piped water.

    The heat from the piped water moves to the holding area to drive off moisture from the products. In the case of the direct power from the solar or wind, it heats up metal rods that are in the holding area to release the energy required to drive the moisture out of the products.

    READ ALSO: Fruits drying raises Kenyan farmers' earnings by 10 times

    READ ALSO: Solar powered mini silos tames grain loss

    READ ALSO: Solar pump helps farmer rear fish away from the river

    Technologist Raymond Rawa said farmers in the coast region are already using the machine for drying various products including fish, mangoes, all types of grains, vegetables, among others.

    Harvests such as maize, beans, and wheat, are prone to aflatoxim poison if they are not dried to the recommended moisture content.

    Fish, fruits and vegetables go bad in less than a week after harvesting if they are not consumed or stored in refrigerators and deep freezers.

    “Solar and wind are available for more than 300 days per year in Kenya. And by any chance if there is no sun, the wind fan moves to generate the energy required to heat the metal rods of the machine for the moisture expulsion process,” Ruma said.

    The turbine rotates to generate energy, which is stored in a battery before being channeled into the heating chamber.
    The solar power is used in two ways, the technologist said.

    The direct heat from the sun is harnessed by the panels then into a battery before being released slowly into to heat the metal rods in the drying chamber.

    The second way is the sun heating solar panels and the released energy increases the temperature of the piped water in the system in a cycle to the drying chamber to drive the moisture out.

    The driers are customised to meet the needs of the farmers. For the smallholders, the small drier costs between Sh150,000 and S180,000.

    It dries between 20kg to 30kg in six hours; the variation in the amount depends on the type of the harvest being dried. The big or communal one costs about Sh1.8 million. This one dries about 200kg in six hours.

    The wind turbine generates at least 900watts per hour and it is three phase.

    Average heat output collector is 24kwhrs.

    Mangos are being chopped into slices before dying and packaging for crisps, while others are ground into power for export.


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