What small enterprises exist already?

The turbine for the scheme was installed on 1 June 2020. Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) worked with the local community committee to build four workshops in the acre of land given by the government. At present two are operational. One houses a hairdressing salon and the other a battery charging operation. In addition, a third workshop will soon be taken over by a flour mill. It currently uses diesel oil to power it. The owner has calculated that he will be able to half the price of his flour when he converts the machine to electric power. There are also plans for a welding unit to open.

However, the village committee have also promised that they will build a further ten workshops when they have enough funds. A list of potential small enterprises that might use those additional workshops is given below.

What machinery might be required

In addition to the information given below, it would also be useful to look at the background information on packaging, which gives further ideas on possible juicing and packaging small enterprises.

Sunflower oil processing

Farmers have recently begun to grow sunflowers although at the moment they are only used as an ingredient in animal feeds. However, those tests have proved to be successful - sunflowers grow very well in the area. There is a demand for processed oil locally but it can also be sold in larger quantities in local markets such as Chuka and Kerugoya. It is also possible to extract oil from peanuts grown locally.

Most local people buy oil produced by the big national companies such as BIDCO and KAPA who buy local oil and filter and package it. They are all processes that can be carried out at a local level. Filtering simply involves pouring the unrefined oil through a gauze cloth.

To make oil processing a commercial success, they would need a press driven by between 3 and 5 horsepower. They would also need to package it, with plastic bottles favoured. ½ litre and one litre bottles would be needed for the national market whilst 250ml would be appropriate for the local market. A method of automatically filling bottles to the required level and of adding a label to the bottle would also add to the commercial viability of such a small enterprise. The label would also need to show that the product had been authorised by the Kenya Bureau for standards (KBS).

Another possible small machine that would be valuable would be a method for making sunflower cake from the processed plant. It is used as an ingredient in animal feeds. Similarly a method for electrically sealing plastic bottles or bags would speed up the process.


There is a regular demand for welding. Not only is it needed for repairs to existing metalwork but people see it as a potentially lucrative market for gates, door, windows etc. A small welding machine would require
  • the capacity to weld 16 gauge or 1.2mm thick metal
  • low power consumption and high efficiency driven by 4-5 kilowatts
  • low cost
  • core magnetic material made from silicon steel
  • copper or aluminium conductors
  • a hard heat-resistant plastic casing
  • to run on 240 volts
  • use of a single phase ordinary plug.

Although safety would be a prime concern in UK, it is not in Kenya. There are nothing like the same safety requirements and the ability for something to work efficiently but cheaply is paramount. Increased safety increases cost and therefore prices many products out of the market. I have seen machinery driven by bare wires stuck into a socket.

Tobacco curing

Tobacco curing used to be the main small enterprise but farmers are disillusioned with the low prices they currently receive from big companies like British American Tobacco. However, if an electrically driven kiln could be introduced to replace the existing firewood operation, then costs of production would be considerably lower.

Currently farmers use a clay kiln fed by heat from firewood that passes through a series of pipes inside the kiln. Tobacco picked from the fields is laid over racks higher up the kiln where it takes five days to be dried (cured) properly. Initially the tobacco has to be heated at a temperature of 100F. After two days it is increased to 140F. For the fifth day the temperature is raised to 160F. If it is ever allowed to go beyond those levels then there is a danger that the crop will be ruined.

The farmers buy four lorries of firewood each season, each lorry load costing 4000 shillings. Each kiln produces approximately 1500 kilos per season from two acres of tobacco plants.

A process that heated the kilns with hot air from the ballast load overnight and retained the heat during the day would reduce costs appreciably. It would need to be capable of maintaining a constant temperature.

Other possibilities

One of the problems is that people do not accept new ideas readily. They have to be convinced both that something will work and that it will sell. There are some obvious possibilities - but they might need selling to the community.

  • A slow cooker that operated on the overnight ballast load could be used for cooking local meat or vegetable stews or soups that could be sold both to workshop holders and to their customers. An element and adequate insulation would be the prime components.
  • A wood lathe for carpentry
  • A pillar drill for metals. Workshops are rented for 300 shillings per month, a figure which ITDG thinks to be ridiculously low. It is set to increase. There will also be a charge for electricity use though at the moment there is no method available for metering usage.




Micro-hydro electricity

Before you begin

Web References

Background to Kenya

The Mbuiru Community

Practical possibilities for small scale enterprise



Vulnerable Groups



Energy Supply





Potential markets

Existing small enterprises

Design possibilities