SECTIONS
Premium

Water-powered posho mill that has served Ikolomani village for 57 years

Sarah Musitia, a resident of Imuliru village in Ikolomani, Kakamega County, explains how the water powered posho mill works on March 17, 2022. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Sarah Musitia has never bought maize flour since she got married 27 years ago.

Reason? She mills her own flour using a traditional water-powered posho mill on her farm.

The 47-year-old mother of eight from Mulitu village in Ikolomani Constituency, Kakamega County, says the posho mill was set up by her late father-in-law in 1965 who later handed it over to her husband.

Musitia says she has since taken full charge of its operations.

The turbines of the posho mill require a fast-moving flow of water to produce continuous power by revolving and a  waterfall on River Igaligoli that passes at the foot of her farm has made that easier for Musitia and her family.

Sarah Musitia, a resident of Imuliru village in Ikolomani, Kakamega County, explains how the water powered posho mill works on March 17, 2022. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

And the posho mill does not only serve Ms Musitia's family. Neighbours from the entire Ivonda sub-location have, for the last 57 years, been trooping the home to mill their maize, at a small fee. 

"I found this traditional water-powered mill when I got married. I have never known any other posho mill since then. And I don't buy maize flour from shops. We use this mill to make our own clean flour. Residents of this area come here as well to grind maize and we charge them a small fee," says Musitia.

While some posho mills in the area have closed down due to high fuel prices, Musindia is thankful for the continued and steady flow of River Igaligoli.

The machine does not pollute the environment as it uses clean energy. 

"The environment is well-taken care of here. There is no pollution of water or air. That is why, as you can see, the river's water is as clean as ever, supporting plantations including trees that are attracting rain. The noise that comes from this mill is also minimal," Musitia says.

And the mill is not what it was when her husband Kennedy Mulinya took it over as it has since received some modifications to improve its effectiveness.

While some posho mills in the area have closed down due to high fuel prices, Musindia is thankful for the continued and steady flow of River Igaligoli. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

"The older generation still prefer flour from this mill compared to modern posho mills or maize flour from the shops. They feel the four we mill here is cleaner and healthier. And since there is no pollution, chances of contamination are almost zero," says Musitia.

She adds: "Many people love our mill because, according to them, the flour does not have any funny scent, especially because we do not use fuels. Some say our machine produces the original flour and we take a lot of pride in that knowing that while it is helping us, the posho mill is also making life easier for those around us."

Musitia charges Sh5 to mill a kilogramme of maize. Posho mills that run on electricity or fuel charge double.

She says she has been witnessing an overflow of customers, especially after the outbreak of coronavirus that shrunk people's earnings and nearly collapsed world economies. 

"We have decided not to charge more than that because we know people are hurting due to economic hardships. We are just too happy that many people from this area prefer milling their maize here," says Musitia.

She says they have educated all their children from what they make from the posho mill. "In a day. I pocket up to Sh500 which is quite something, bearing in mind that this is a rural area."

But that said and done, Ms Musitia is aware of the threat passed by modern posho mills.

While they may face challenges of the high cost of fuel, there are those who still prefer them. And many of such mills continue to be set up in this area, says Musitia.

To diversify her services, the woman says they have also ventured into milling livestock feeds which they sell to residents, just to supplement their income. 

"We have to compete with modern posho mills. While we still have a good number of people who continue to come here, we must accept that not as many people travel to come here to mill maize as was the case before. Some of them no longer come because of the distance and the fact that they have an alternative in the modern posho mills that are giving is a run for our money," says Musitia.

The machine does not pollute the environment as it uses clean energy. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

She adds: "I know of people would travel up to four kilometres to mill their maize at our facility. However, they no longer come. With more and more modern posho mills being installed, especially in urban centres, they don't see the need to come all the way to the village."

Mr Mulinya says the modifications he effected on the posho mill made it easier to use and more effective. 

"The posho mill can now be used by anyone. All one needs to do to switch it on lifting a certain metal bar that is less than five kilograms. That is why it is not a must for me to be here all the time. Sometimes, the customer would mill their maize by themselves, pay and leave,” said Mulinya.

The 58-year-old says the materials he used to improve the mill are easily available in the shops.

"I easily know when a part of the mill needs replacement simply by looking at the quality of flour produced," says Mulinya.

"Apparently, most of the materials used on the mill are durable. It's been a while since I repaired it. I only replace the belts, at most twice in a year," says Mulinya, who is now working more as a house constructor.

He says since he inherited the posho mill from his father in the late 1970s and modified it from a stone crushing machine.

It has also attracted students who come here to learn, he says. "The students have been coming here to learn how the posho mill works using water. And they pay for it."

Patrick Shikori, 69, a resident of Mutika, says he has never known any other posho mill other than Musitia's.

“The flour from the posho mill is healthy and more original. There is no smell of fuel as in the case with some of these modern posho mills. I can operate the mill on my own, it is easy to use. If I come here and find there is no one, I just mill my maize," says Shikori.