For the majority of Kenyans, food prepared from maize meal makes up their staple diet.
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But before these families can relish their ugali, especially in the rural areas, they must walk long distances and endure long queues before their corn is milled.
A student at Eldoret Polytechnic may have the answer to this with his affordable and accessible coin-operated maize mill.
Furaha Kevin, 24, said the machine operated just like a normal mill. The only difference is that it has a slot where Sh10 or Sh20 coins can be inserted to start the milling process, which automatically stops when the money is exhausted.
“I have been harbouring a dream of making efficient machines to reduce the man-hours spent on certain services. This will offer a reprieve to those who go to posho mills and find them closed. Customers can access the service for themselves,” said Mr Furaha when The Standard team visited him last week.
“This machine minimises costs because it is programmed to operate within the time set for inserted coins before automatically turning off. This is unlike ordinary mills that continue to consume electricity even after the work is done."
At a recent international technical and vocational education training inter-disciplinary conference in Eldoret, Furaha's invention, which took him two years to assemble, was the centre of attraction.
The coin-operated mill was announced as the overall winner in the innovations category during the event presided over by Vocational and Technical Training Principal Secretary Kevit Desai. Furaha was awarded Sh200,000 to improve the mill.
The diploma student has been feted on several occasions in past innovation exhibitions.
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“With this innovation I aim to provide employment for youths, who are knowledgeable but are unable to meet their daily needs. I am demystifying the notion that graduates are not job creators but job seekers.”
Furaha said after the machine was patented and mass produced, it would help youths to generate an income and improve their living standards.
Other innovations he has developed as a student at the polytechnic include an intelligent fire extinguisher that detects fire and puts it off, an intelligent walking stick to aid visually impaired persons by detecting obstacles around them, a home security system to detect intruders, an intelligent cooking system and a range of robotic appliances.
The student said he was driven to innovate to see if he could address the challenges people face in their daily lives.
He lauded the polytechnic's support with the maize mill, saying his humble background had led to challenges paying tuition fees but he had not relented in the pursuit of his dreams.
“My appeal is to the Government to reduce imports and promote local innovations as one way of creating employment. There is a lot of talent that needs to be exploited through training in such learning institutions,” he said.
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Eldoret Polytechnic's Director of Technical and Vocational Education Training Cheruiyot Chirchir said the institution was focused on educating students to become innovators who were technology savvy to address the needs of the labour market.
“Our objective is to grow human resource that is creative and innovative. Future organisations will require the capability of unleashing people's ingenuity to have a distinctive competitive advantage,” said Mr Chirchir.
Chief Principal Josphat Sawe said the polytechnic was geared towards realisation of the Government's Big Four agenda, adding that they had received modern equipment including a computer numeric controlled lathe and milling machines.
“Many university students usually visit our workshops to complete their undergraduate projects,” he said.