Alex Odundo's sisal twine manufacturing machines.
As a child, Odundo would sit with his mother and strip off the husk of the sisal leaf by hand. That is how Kenyan farmers and their families usually process the leaf, if they process it at all. The slow work inspired the idea to automate the process. Fifteen years and many prototypes later, with a degree from Kisumu Polytechnic and a family of his own, Odundo has developed the machines and he sells them through his company Sifa Machinery.
Now, he would like to mass produce them and sell them more cheaply to farmers. Here's a snapshot of what could be the future of sisal twine production in rural Kenya.
The decorticator is a cylindrical drum in a frame with blades that strip the green husk from the sisal leaf and grind the inner fiber into strands.
It has a five- to six-horsepower motor that can be either diesel or gasoline powered. The machines cost $500 to $700 to make, depending on the model, and Odundo sells them for $850 to $1,200. The prices should drop with mass production.
SISAL TWINE MACHINE
The twine machine spins the sisal fibers into a thin twine. It is composed of a 0.5-horsepower electric motor, a fly arm, bobbin, hub, friction belt and a smaller feeding motor of 1/16 horsepower. It is small enough for a farmer to use on the doorstep, Odundo says. It costs him about $350 to make by hand and he sells it for $600.
The sisal rope spooling machine packs the spun twine to prepare it for sale. It can spool different quantities and includes a two-horsepower motor that spins a couple of rollers. It costs Odundo about $1,000 to make and he sells it for $1,400.
THE BOTTOM LINE
With one decorticator and two twine machines, a farmer can grind and spin 120kg of sisal into twine in eight hours. That amount could sell for $120, Odundo says.
SISAL THE SAVIOR
Odundo has called sisal a savior to Kenya and it's not hard to see why. The sisal is an agave thought to be native to the dry Yucutan Peninsula of Mexico, and it thrives in semi-arid climates. More than half of Kenya is semi arid. So, a plant like sisal that does not wither during long droughts really could be a boon to farmers. But only if they can process it efficiently.
"Despite sisal being a potential cash crop, no one was willing to plant more because of the processing methods being used. These were labor intensive with poor-quality products," Odundo told E4C by email.
Now, small farm holders are planting more and making more money using this new sisal twine manufacturing equipment, Odundo says.
THE FUTURE OF SISAL TWINE
Odundo has become something of a media sensation since he presented his decorticator at Maker Faire Africa in 2010. Since then, he became a TED Fellow in 2012. Moving forward, he has plans to improve the machines.
THE BOTTOM LINE
WITH ONE DECORTICATOR AND TWO TWINE MACHINES, A FARMER CAN TRANSFORM:
OF SISAL INTO TWINE IN EIGHT HOURS
THAT AMOUNT COULD SELL FOR
ODUNDO SAYS. ALL COSTS CONSIDERED, THE DAILY PROFIT COULD BE
50% OF THE INVESTMENT
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|Title Annotation:||ENGINEERING FOR CHANGE|
|Comment:||Alex Odundo's sisal twine manufacturing machines.(ENGINEERING FOR CHANGE)|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2013|
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