Innovation / Research

From Grassroots to Global: An embrace of creative artisans from across the Indian Ocean

SRISTI, in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is facilitating transfer and indigenization of three types of low-cost mechanization and processing equipment to Kenya – the Bullet Santi (rechristened as Shujaa in Kenya), the Multipurpose Food processing machine and the Seed & Fertilizer dibbler.

The Bullet Santi is a three-wheeled multipurpose farming machine that can plough sandy loam soils, spray pesticides, help in ridge making, weeding and inter-culture. It is an affordable alternative which would help in significant improvement in productivity. The technology has been adopted to have four wheels to increase the stability in the undulating farm terrain of Kenya. The Multipurpose food processing machine is an economical solution for post harvest value-addition at the farm. The machine can help the farmers to augment their income at the source by selling value added products like juice, jam, jelly and essential oil. The seed dibbler is a useful implement to sow seeds and apply fertilizer while reducing drudgery. Because of its easy access, the implement can be used for gap-filling, thereby maintaining the crop density.

SRISTI has partnered with Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) for conducting demonstrations, training and capacity building as well as building an ecosystem of stakeholders around these technologies. The team is also promoting local manufacturing/assembly to ensure long-term sustainability. The program aims to increase smallholder farmers’ access to technology, build the capacity of individual farmers, producers’ groups and entrepreneurs for sustaining this ecosystem. A decentralized manufacturing and assembly model is being developed for meeting the local mechanization demands in Kenya where many local Jua Kalis are involved. Jua Kalis are a group of microenterprises in the informal sector of East Africa that work in close proximity is dedicated areas in various towns in the region. “Jua Kali” in Kiswahili means the hot sun.  This refers to earlier times when they conducted their business out in open under the burning sun.

The cooperation began in October 2013. In the course of the project, the team felt that to completely understand the informal fabrication ecosystem of these machines, it was important for the fabricators and mechanics to work with the innovators in India. Therefore, six Jua Kalis were invited to India by SRISTI.

It was thought that once the Jua Kalis are in India, they would be acquainted with the entire process of assembling the technologies right from sourcing, fabrication, assembly and repair. Three main activities happened on their visit to India:

  1. Exposure of the Jua Kalis to various models of the Bullet Santi

Initially, the Kenyan team was made to understand various models. The Bullet Santi is fabricated in five districts of the Saurashtra region – Amreli, Bhavnagar, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Junagadh. About 150 fabricators make the Santi and more than 500 other fabricators are supported by the Santi economy. This has allowed the technology to grow – several modifications and variations have emerged responding to market and technical compulsions. It was important that the Jua Kalis view the technology in this context. They visited key pioneering fabricators in Mota Devaliya, Chittal and Liliya before beginning to work on fabrication.

Chrisphine from Makueni trying to understand in steering mechanism

Chrisphine from Makueni trying to understand in steering mechanism in Mansukhbhai’s tractor

Steph from Siaya driving Upendrabhai's tractors

Steph from Siaya driving Upendrabhai’s tractor


  1. Hands-on training in assembly of the technologies

The Jua Kalis then worked together with four key innovators- Mansukhbhai Jagani, Shailesh Dodiya, Rasikbhai Rathod and Hasmukhbhai Chauhan and learned about the specifications of the spares, fabrication of the chassis, mounting of components of the chassis, clutch and differential assemblies and other finer details. Dharambir Kamboj the brainchild behind the multipurpose food processing machine also joined the visit. The Jua kalis helped in dismantling and reassembly of the machine. They made juice, jams and aloe vera gel using the machine.

Shaileshbhai Dodiya explaining the gearbox assembly

Shaileshbhai Dodiya explaining the gearbox assembly to Jua Kalis and JKUAT delegates

Mansukhbhai Jagani explaining the steering assembly

Mansukhbhai Jagani explaining the steering assembly

  1. Understanding the ecosystem of other supporting industries that feed into the Santi economy


The Jua Kalis then visited Rajkot from where the spares are sourced for making the Santi.  It must be noted that the Santi uses a gearbox and a differential drive sourced from used automobiles. Car spares like the gearbox and the differential have a much higher lifecycle. Rajkot has industrial areas where spares from used cars are collected. It was thought that the Jua Kalis should understand that this economy has not emerged in isolation but several supporting factors have contributed to its thriving in Saurashtra. Many key parts are also often outsourced to fabricators in Rajkot. Supporting services like foundries and precision turning are also easily found in Rajkot. In Kenya, this role can be played by Nairobi and Kisumu who can serve as hubs for Lower Eastern and Western Kenya.

Jua Kalis visiting the scrap collectors who supply critical components

Jua Kalis visiting the scrap collectors who supply critical components

The Jua Kalis learned various skills. They took several drawings and pictures of the machines and vowed to work on the designs. Several options on how to secure funding for their prototypes were discussed.

Towards the end, some critical feedback was received. Many Jua kalis expressed their desire to contribute to the fabrication of the machines. Steph Otieno Bayo a Jua Kali artisan from Siaya noted that the steering rack attachment for the tractor version can be positioned at the back for avoiding contact with weeds or boulders. Joel Kasimba suggested the use of C channels instead of square pipes since it is not  possible to prevent rust in square mild steel pipe. C channels can be coated or painted to minimize corrosion.  He also suggested that some attachment for adding weights can be made in the front. Graham Okello and Lenard Mutisya expressed their desire to make trailers and other attachments. Graham was of the opinion that if jigs and fixtures are made, it would be convenient for them to replicate the technology. John Mutunga told the team he was interested in the fabrication of the chassis. All the while he was busy sketching drawings of various parts of the machines. Chrisphine Muasya, a mechanic, said he could contribute by repairing engines, gearboxes and differentials. He suggested the use of mountings to reduce the vibrations in the machines. He also insisted on adding a handbrake to the Santi for additional safety. For the food processing machine it was felt that some improvements are needed to improve the process hygiene. Use of sieves within the machines was a common recommendation both from the JKUAT team and the Jua Kalis. For the dibbler, the JKUAT team suggested that instead of an MS nozzle that channels the seeds to the roller, a rubber one can be used so that the seeds do not shatter when stuck between the roller and the nozzle.

The Jua Kalis noted many positives from the visit. They expressed to the team how amazed they were seeing the humility and modesty of the innovators; that the innovators did not let lack of resources to become a hindrance to their pursuit for frugal solutions. However, they were also quick to point out that it was important for them to take care of basic safety measures.

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