John may have not have stepped in an engineering class, but he has generated electricity from a river, and now powers over 300 rural homes. The 28-year-old, who is commonly referred to as “Engineer’’ in his village in central Kenya, started his mini hydro project five years ago, after completing secondary education. At first, he made a bicycle dynamo to generate power for his family.
The community could not afford to raise the required money to approach Kenya Power and this made his neighbours seek his consent to share electricity he generated from the bicycle dynamo.
This gave him sleepless nights, wondering how he could use the locally-accessible materials to generate power that could feed his village. Using knowledge gained from his physics class, he proceeded to Ngondo River, which had a waterfall and started the project. A year later, after news spread that he had generated power from a bicycle dynamo, the National Environmental Trust Fund approached him and trained him on power generation skills.
He also got funding to buy turbines and in 2016, he had enough machines to generate power. He bought power poles and connected other homes to electricity.
“They pay a fee of Sh200 monthly and a subscription fee of Sh15,000 which is paid in phases to get a voltage of 415 and the power covers 28 kilometres currently,” he says.
His project has earned him many awards. With seven employees, he says many people are approaching him to supply the cheaper power with no outages. John, who scored a D Minus in his KCSE, hopes to reach 47 counties, connecting more Kenyans to clean power.
“I urge those who may not be excelling in education not to lose hope or to be intimidated by the peers or the society, they can still pursue their dreams alternatively through their God given talents,” he says.
— Ndung’u Gachane