Armed with a diploma in agricultural engineering, Albanus Mwangangi confronted a pivotal choice upon graduating from Kitale National Polytechnic.
The decision was twofold: either secure employment in established agricultural entities or embark on a mission to innovate agricultural machinery, aimed at easing the struggles of small-scale farmers.
Hailing from Mwaani village, Nguumo Ward, Kibwezi West Sub-County, Makueni County, Mwangangi, having initially pursued studies in Agriculture after scoring a B+ at Birio High School, Kiserian, returned to his roots. The sight of his family and community members grappling with the laborious process of threshing sorghum using primitive methods fueled his determination to find innovative solutions.
Disheartened by the unavailability of job opportunities after college, Mwangangi shifted his focus towards developing agricultural technologies for his community. Despite sharing his ideas with institutions and individuals, he found little support. Undeterred, he continued refining his concepts through self-study and research.
His persistence bore fruit when he collaborated with the Cereal Growers Association (CGA) and AgriFi in a sorghum commercialisation project early last year. This collaboration, aimed at promoting the commercialization of sorghum across Makueni County, presented Mwangangi with an opportunity to train fellow youths on technologies and mechanization.
During this project, Mwangangi discovered the dire need for a thresher when collaborating with farmers. Witnessing the labor-intensive and time-consuming struggles of farmers with threshing, he identified this as a crucial area for innovation.
However, financial constraints loomed large. Organising a fundraiser, Mwangangi managed to raise only Sh 17,000, far below the estimated cost of over Sh50,000. Undeterred, he persevered, diligently saving with the determination to implement his ideas in the future.
Several months later, armed with savings and a deep commitment, Mwangangi successfully assembled a multi-purpose thresher. The machine, costing Sh 70,000, features efficient beaters made of short chains welded onto a round horizontal metal structure. These beaters strike the crops inside when the structure rotates, ensuring thorough threshing.
The machine is enclosed within a horizontal drum, allowing grains and waste to separate and exit in opposite directions.
“After several tests on sorghum, I found the thresher working.
During subsequent trials, farmers gave me their sorghum for free. I was not shocked when it turned out successful because I had faith,” explains Mwangangi. The machine takes around three minutes to thresh a 50kg bag of grains, boasting efficiency that minimises the need for extensive winnowing.
The impact of Mwangangi’s innovation reverberated through the community. Caroline Ndoni, a sorghum farmer and village-based advisour, recounts the difficulties in convincing farmers to plant sorghum due to the challenges in threshing. She highlights the skepticism among local people about planting sorghum, primarily because of the perceived difficulty in harvesting and threshing.
“Although it is a makeshift machine, it works well, and hundreds of us use it to thresh our cereals. Many farmers have come to know the availability of the thresher and no longer complain or ask about threshing,” lauds Caroline.
Josephine Mutheu, another farmer, emphasises the impact on women and youth who bear the brunt of manual labor on farms. Mutheu shares her initial conflicts with her husband over manual threshing and the subsequent efficiency and cleanliness achieved with the thresher.
The success with sorghum motivated Mwangangi to extend his innovation to other cereals such as soya, beans, and cowpeas. Utilising different sizes of sieves to accommodate various grain sizes, he has witnessed a surge in demand for his threshing services, serving over 400 farmers across multiple regions.
Despite financial constraints, Mwangangi charges a nominal fee for his services, catering to a growing demand. His reach extends beyond his sub-county to areas including Kitui, Taita Taveta, Machakos, and Kajiado. In a day, he pockets around Sh1,500 but remains with Sh800 after accounting for expenses.
Mwangangi, at 30, is resolute in his commitment to entrepreneurship, vowing never to seek employment but instead to offer employment. Currently, he has two youths working with him.
Acknowledging the challenges, including the high cost of fuel and farmers requesting threshing before their crops adequately dry, Mwangangi addresses these issues by providing education and training to farmers on proper grain drying techniques.
His plans to secure additional funding for further innovations, such as a motorised plough capable of land ripping, planting, and weeding.