Kibuye market in Kisumu is always as busy as a bee hive, both day and night.
Here, you can work for 24 hours, and the number of people who flock the market is huge, making traders sell their goods easily.
I found Kibuye the perfect place to put my workshop, where I mainly fabricate sisal processing machines for both local and export market under the business name Olex Technology.
I make several machines that includes a decorticator. The devices go for between Sh80,000 and Sh500,000.
The decorticator is used to strip the green cover from a sisal leaf and grinds the inner fibre into strands. The machine has a horsepower motor that uses diesel or petrol.
There is also the twinning machine which spins sisal fibres into thin yarns. It has a horsepower, electric motor, a fly arm, bobbin and a friction belt, among other parts.
The spooling machine, on the other hand, rolls different quantities of sisal for sale. It comprises of a two-horsepower motor.
I am a mechanical engineering graduate from Kisumu Polytechnic who loves making various machines for farm use. Since I graduated in 2004, I have always been thinking of how to use my education to make work easier in my society.
My portable machines use either electricity, diesel or petrol. They consume an average of eight litres of petrol in eight hours.
But with diesel, the consumption is lower. A single head decorticator diesel machine consumes three to four litres for the eight hours. A double head decorticator consumes seven litres to 10 in the same hours.
The decorticator was the first machine I designed. I use locally available materials that include metal and motor to make the gadgets that I sell small ones for an average of Sh100, 000.
However, one can hire the machine for use at Sh300 a day
I make about five machines per month, mostly on orders.
To use the decorticator, you hold green sisal leaves and insert them halfway into the machine. It crushes the leaves turning them into fibre strands.
Besides the sisal machines, I also make bicycle water pumps and hydro floating pump for irrigating crops. A bicycle water pump retails at Sh15,000.
I have a website through which I market my products, but I get a good number of my clients through referrals. I also display the products in agricultural shows.
I get as many clients locally as from outside the country. My machines have been bought by clients from Nairobi, Migori, Mombasa and Baringo.
I have patented the sisal twine and a bicycle water pump because they are my own innovations. I have not patented the others because they are not new. I have just improved what is already in the market.
The main reason I came up with all these machines was to add value to the sisal plant and empower small-scale farmers, particularly in Western Kenya where sisal is grown.
Before I started making the machines, I was employed by an Indian family at a workshop in Kisumu as a technician earning Sh1,000 a day. It is here that I perfected my skills and learned most of the things I am doing.
We were mainly making machines for sugar companies. I worked for six months and in 2005, I went back to my village in Suba, Homa Bay County to plant sisal. I planted one acre but had problems selling it. It is then that I thought of making the machines, so I set up the workshop in Kisumu.
My initial capital was Sh400, 000, part of which was from my savings and the proceeds from my sisal, which I sold to a company in Homa Bay.
Some of the challenges I face include lack of finance to expand the business and failure to get qualified personnel. I normally get people from technical colleges but I have to take time to train them, which is expensive. Marketing is also still a challenge.
But I am grateful for the machines because in 2012, they gave me an opportunity to attend the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) talk show in the US. We were two Africans and I spoke about my machines. Currently, I am working on a weeding machine.
– As told to Everline Okewo
Are you engaging in any agribusiness. Tell us briefly via [email protected] Include your telephone number.