Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in conjunction with Kenya Agricultural and Research Organization (KALRO) embarked on a mission to finding solutions to problems facing farmers in Bomet and Kericho counties.
The collaboration dubbed Sustainable Participatory Enhancement of Finger Millet Value Chain is under the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project (KCSAP) funded by the World Bank and aims at leveraging on newly developed and adopted technologies, providing viable and prudent solutions.
As the adage goes necessity is the mother of invention, JKUAT project lead, Prof. Christopher Kanali said, the Finger millet threshing machine was developed through collaboration with Tecsols Ltd, a Nakuru based company. The Finger-millet farmers were initially undertaking traditional hand threshing and separating the edible grains from the panicle, a labor-intensive process.
“The manual process was quite tedious as it involved putting sizeable amount of dried finger millet in bags, beating to detach grains, repeated winnowing to obtain clean grains and packaging. Efficient threshing (using the new developed technology) is thus a promising solution to most rural farmers who produce finger millet on small farms for consumption locally and regionally,” asserted Prof. Kanali, who is also the Co-Principal Investigator of the project.
The machine, which is made of mild steel, a component readily available locally, is portable making it easier to be moved from site to site. It also has a hopper (an inlet where the finger millet is put) with a dimension length – 1650mm, width – 900mm and height – 1550 mm (height of 1130mm with the hopper detached).
The Finger-millet thresher, which has the ability to thresh, winnow and polish dry finger millet pinnacles, is operated by two people, has a 98% removal of bran on the grain tips as well as 95% of chaff, runs on a petrol engine with 7.5 horsepower and can produce between 200 – 300 kg per hour of clean finger millet.
“The finger millet thresher has proven to be an ideal solution to the manual threshing of finger millet,” attested Prof. Kanali.
According to Prof. Kanali, the machine consumes about 1 liter of petrol per hour and has a maximum weight of 150 kilograms and costs roughly between Kshs. 180,000 and Kshs. 250,000.
On capacity building, the JKUAT team and partners embarked on a series of field demonstrations in various farms in the two counties in a bid to reduce post-harvest loss and ease the threshing process.
He called upon the county government to set up funding for farmers to be able to acquire the machine as it is costly. Prof. Kanali further encouraged farmers to form groups and pool resources together to increase their purchasing power.
“We have the capacity and skills to address problems facing us as well as come up with innovations in the long-term, especially in the agricultural sector. Research is key if we are able to leverage on it fully,” concluded Prof. Kanali.
On future plans, the Co-Principal Investigator stated they aim to patent the machine to ensure their rights are well safeguarded.
Also involved in the machine development are Dr. Erick Ronoh as the Project secretariat, Gerishom Andalia and Victor Langat both as technical field assistants.