A Creative Makerspace for Makers in Kisumu Kenya
We are bringing manufacturing capabilities to Africa.
We want to build a center for economic growth in Kenya through bottom-up efforts targeting individuals who are already getting it done. It’s called the Victoria Innovation Center (VIC) - a place to educate, innovate, and develop manufacturing skills. In exchange for your donation to making the VIC come to life, you’ll receive one of the beautifully hand-crafted items produced entirely in Kenya – using material sustainably grown by individual Kenyan farmers and machines invented and engineered in Kenya by one amazing individual, Alex Odundo.
Alex Odundo, founder of the VIC, spent the last 15 years independently developing a set of agricultural machines designed to efficiently harvest and process the sisal plant into usable twine and rope. He is a TED Fellow, a Maker Faire Africa participant, a member of young innovators club in Kenya, founder of Olextechno enterprises, and the founder of SIFA Machinery LTD (Sisal Integrated Foundation). He is currently collaborating with the Kenyan Ministry Of Agriculture and mentoring engineering students in his home of Kisumu - Kenya’s 3rd largest city.
The Sisal Plant - A Boost for Small Farmers
Small farmers in East Africa depend heavily on the productivity of maize, a thirsty crop in a dry country. When maize crops fail, that dependence results in hunger, malnutrition, and other health and economic challenges among large portions of the Kenyan population. Alex identified sisal as drought-resistant cash crop to give Kenyan farmers a supplemental income stream. Sisal fiber is used in rope, bags, rugs, insulation, and is a commodity traded worldwide.
In order to leverage this crop, Alex invented and deployed decoaticating (fiber-stripping) machines to instantly remove sisal fibers from sisal leaves - the key for making sisal into a reliable, profitable cash crop.
These machines are very efficient compared to the traditional methods for stripping fibre. The machines increase productivity by 10% to 200%, producing 150-300 kg of sisal fiber per day as compared to 10 kg sisal fiber per day using traditional harvesting methods.
Alex also developed and deployed sisal twine and bundling machines to convert sisal fiber into twine, a much higher value agricultural product. By his own work, Alex has created 120 new jobs for people now directly employed in sisal harvesting and sisal twine production.
The Victoria Innovation Center
The VIC is being set up to accelerate the innovation of new products for Africa. Engineers, designers, and innovators will have access to equipment and a place to develop middle-tech machines and tools to increase income and quality of life for individuals, communities and, ultimately, all of Kenya. It’s a maker space – a place to educate, innovate, and develop manufacturing skills – with the aim of empowering individuals with the means to process and produce.
We’re raising funds for an MES machine shop (MES: Minimum Effective Shop) to move from using reclaimed and scrap parts - difficult for making new machines - to using modern tools to make the gears, screws, bolts, sheet metal, etc. that make durable and highly productive machines. Thousands of such small machine shops exist in the US and Europe - VIC will be the first in Kisumu and one of only a few in Kenya.
Funds will be used to buy and import the following tools and equipment:
- Power hand tools (jig saw, drill)
- Shop materials (raw metal, saw blades, welding gas, etc.)
- CAD software to quick prototype and engineer new designs.
For you, from Kenya
As you might imagine, raising money for small businesses in Africa is a challenge. The VIC is reaching out to the international maker community to buy the equipment we need to get started.
Along with our love and eternal gratitude, for your help we will commemorate your effort with one of the gifts described on this page. The perks include your name (or that of a loved one, you decide!) on the walls of the VIC factory, as an 'Innovation Supporter' as well as handmade sisal products designed and produced in Kisumu. All these products are made from locally available, sustainable materials – we hope you will enjoy them as much as we do!
Medium has written about the Victoria Innovation Center and Alex Odundo.
"In Kenya, an inventor's crusade for middle tech"
Read it here.
A big thank you to everyone who is helping to spread the word.