GFAR blog

YAP Proposal #348: Mechanical millet and sorghum thresher (Catherine Wanjiku, Kenya)

Apese is a widow in Teso South Sub-county of Busia County, Kenya. Her son, who is in secondary school, was sent home today for not paying his school fees. Her youngest 8-year-old daughter has been sickly the last two days. She needs money urgently, so what to do?

She rushes to her granary and gets out the remaining millet and sorghum panicles. She dries them in the sun on the bare ground in front of her grass-thatched hut. She then gets down to beating them as hard as her feeble hands can, after which she winnows with a traditional tray.

She then gets her pestle and mortar for de-hulling the grain. It has taken her 5 hours to process only 10 kg and now she ponders, where will I sell the last of last season’s produce?

She sends her son to the neighbors to ask if anyone needs the grain as she rushes to the nearby bush for firewood. After all, dinner has to be prepared. Unfortunately, there is no available buyer, even with the throwaway price she offers.

She has to rush to the market before its dark and gets to sell at the greedy trader’s price. However, what else can she do? She needs the money badly.

What if she could have all her season’s produce threshed at once? What if she didn’t have to worry about the market or prices? What if she didn’t have to search for firewood every day?

My name is Catherine Wanjiku, a 31-year-old Kenyan from Busia county. I run Farm-Grown solutions, which provides agro-inputs and extension services to farmers in Busia.

She can smile

I want to provide processing services and markets for these rural communities through a portable threshing machine that can access the remotest of areas, cutting back on this labor-intensive, time-consuming and uneconomical activity. We then buy the grain from these farmers in bulk as it is easier to get market from millers and traders.

There are many by-products from the farm to processing. I plan to make briquettes from compacting the waste, then charring them to make charcoal for fuel. Apese will therefore not need to search for firewood every day, and we conserve the little remaining trees.

The push factor?

Apese would be a happier liberated mother with more time and extra energy to not only take care of her family but also to increase enterprises in her farm. She will be able to take care of her obligations efficiently. What with the increased farm-enterprises, she would enjoy a cleaner healthier environment with reduced deforestation due to the new clean source of fuel.

One, two, three…

With the farmers already aware and ready to use our services for processing their produce, we begin by making a programme for the various villages after the harvesting period. We then inform the farmers prior to our visit and they bring their produce to a central place where we process and purchase the grain. We also collect the by-products and bring them to our facility for briquette making, which will be sold to sustain the enterprise. We then get markets for the grain.

Achievements so far

Through our extension services, the farmers are aware and more than willing to use the threshing technology. We have acquired the threshing machine and land to put up a storage structure. We have also identified collection centers close to the farmers.

Actual measurable factors

With the labor-intensive processing activity mechanized, and access to market and better prices provided, the area under production is bound to increase. This also translates to increased income and improved livelihoods. There will also be increase in number of farm enterprises due to the freed labour.

Additionally, more trees will be spared due to the new source of fuel for the community, thus conserving a better ecosystem.

The budget

We will put up the storage structure for $2000 from April to June and buy the briquette-making machine for $1200 from July to august. We also buy tarpaulins for $1000 from July to august and use $800 for buying the produce from farmers august to January.

Her dreams are valid

$5000 will change the life of Apese and the Teso community by mechanizing the processing of these crops, which are the staple foods in this and other semi-arid areas. What a joy it would be to increase sources of income for Apese as well as the nutritional security that is in millet and sorghum.


Blogpost and picture submitted by Catherine Wanjiku (Kenya) – kateajaku[at]

The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.

This post is published as proposal #348 of “YAP” – our “Youth Agripreneur Project”.

The first selection of the winners will be based on the number of comments, likes and views each proposal gets.

As a reader, you can support this speaker’s entry:

  • Leave a comment (question, suggestion,..) on this project in the comment field at the bottom of this page
  • Support the post by clicking the “Like” button below (only possible for those with a account)
  • Spread this post via your social media channels, using the hashtag: #GCARD3


Have a look at the other “YAP” proposals too!
As a donor, support young agripreneurs and sponsor this unique project. Check out the side column for our current sponsors.
“YAP” is part of the #GCARD3 process, the third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development.

28 thoughts on “YAP Proposal #348: Mechanical millet and sorghum thresher (Catherine Wanjiku, Kenya)”

  1. A stitch in time that will be, to dignify resource poor farmers and improve efficiency in the post harvest management. Her dreams are trully valid.

    1. Indeed Daniel,thank you. We all deserve a better life, and so does Apese and her community.if we can improve the efficiency in processing and marketing, we definitely will make their dreams a reality as well as improve their livelihoods.

  2. Indeed Apese is a poor farmer that needs support. One area that should be looked into is to help Apese and fellow women farmers in the area to start a merry – go – round group where they could borrow money in the hour of need like her case above. There is also need for them to have a cooperative society where they could take their produce once they have harvested to enable buyers buy from a central place as opposed to buying from individual farmers.

    1. Thank you sir for the two important points made. The one of the many issues with merry-go-rounds is that in rural settings, they contribute very little that may be a drop in the ocean for Apese.
      I dream of a co-operative society where these farmers can bring their produce for processing and marketing, as well as access credit facilities. We are just beginning, and like Apese,our dreams are valid.

  3. this is an awesome technology, to make things easier for the farmers, and the briquettes idea, that is timely talk of saving our forests by recycling.

    1. Thanks Manthi. The great world conversation now is how to save our ecosystems due to the damage done by deforestation resulting in worsening climatic conditions. The briquettes will not only revolutionized this community but also create employment for the youth.

  4. Nice undertaking that will really reduce the labour demand in sorghum and finger millet production

    1. Yes Leah, thank you. processing of these crops is not only time consuming but labour intensive and results in alot of post-harvest handling losses. If we are promoting increase in their production, we must first deal with the loop-holes in the entire process.

    1. Thanks Peter. I’m glad you enjoyed reading.
      This will not only put money in our pockets but also change the life of an entire community. Now, that is a milestone.

  5. This is very innovative and interesting strategy to address the challenges of resource-challenged rural farmers, particularly women. I hope you get the necessary suppurt to implemett it successfuly.

    1. Thank you Elijah. Indeed women do most of these labour intensive activities. What better way to accelerate gender parity than to enable these rural women achieved their ambitions and get their dignity.

  6. This is very innovative and interesting strategy to address the challenges of resource-challenged rural farmers, particularly women. I hope you get the necessary suppurt to implement it successfuly.

    1. Thank you Sir. Poverty alleviation should be the goal of each one of us if we are to achieve Vision 2030.

  7. This is indeed a very good innovation that will help alleviate poverty. Apese and many other teso women will smile

  8. What a SMART Idea Wanjiku. Keep up and Sell that Idea all over Kenya, That’s a Poverty Out Of Kenya Initiative.

  9. Catherine, This is definitely a well thought proposal, indicating you really know your clients. If implemented will go a long way to improve the livelihood of these poor women in the sub Saharan Africa. I suggest you work with farmer groups (which I am sure Apese is a member) wish you and the these women success

    1. Thank you. Indeed, I have not only worked in this community but also experienced these challenges myself. Implementing this project will definitely improve their livelihoods. Thanks for the advice.

  10. Good job Wanjiiku. It’s a great idea which you have articulated very clearly. I wish you luck as you look for financing for your business idea. I do hope that it will not only be a good venture for the community but also a viable and profitable business venture for you as well. Good luck! 😊

  11. Catherine this is a noble cause and the technologies will help solve the drudgery experienced in finger millet farming. It will also give the Teso women and others ample time to venture into other finger millet value added activities.

  12. a journey towards an aggreagtor model that could link Apese to Markets, improve her earnings and her livilihood. all the best.

  13. Science is for all including farmers. Post harvesting technology will enahnce farmers crop cultivation effeiciency including orphan crop like finger millet, sorghum and perl millet and save their time to engage in other social and economical activity.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s