Incredible all-round inventor Bernard Kiwia, also known as Tanzania’s Father of Rural Innovation, has made a name in his local community, in Tanzania, and with institutions as varied and hallowed as MIT, the BBC and the Smithsonian Museum.
Kiwia describes himself as an “experienced maintenance technician” with a demonstrated history of working in the design industry. As a young man, he was renowned for being able to fix anything that happened to a bike.
But his technical skills go much further: Kiwia is fully focused on empowering communities to solve local problems using locally available materials, which inevitably means a very green approach to technology.
He’s developed a mobile phone charger powered by a bike; a windmill operated washing machine; his own solar water heater, half as expensive as a shop-bought version; and a wheel-powered blender, used to make juice in rural villages.
These innovations not only ensure energy independence in often economically deprived areas, but also foment new social businesses.
To focus his work, Kiwia is the co-founder of Twende Social Innovation in Tanzania, which identifies local needs and engineers new technology solutions. Kiwia has since 2012 run a creative capacity building workshop, also offering mentorship and advising to aspiring innovators.
In an interview, Kiwia said he was inspired to create technology because “what I need the community also needs” — the very embodiment of collaborative working.
“When people are in the village, they want to have the same life as people living in the cities,” he said. “In the city, you can buy juice in any hotel or restaurant. But in the village people can’t make juice because there is no electricity. Fruits comes from the village, but in the village, you find they have a number of fruits that they can’t finish in a year, in a fruit season.
“So the rest of the fruits they just throw away. But with the device, the device could help families to take more fruits, because they can take fresh fruits from trees, and they can use the remainder of the fruits for blending juice and to take care for their family.
Other ideas he’s working on are whether he could use a bike to make a machine that plants seedlings directly in the soil.
In late 2011 Kiwia’s designs were displayed alongside other ingenious devices from developing regions in a Smithsonian Museum exhibit in New York City. Kiwia went to the International Development Design Summit at MIT in summer of 2007, where he was inspired by Guatemalan inventor Carlos Marroquin whose Maya Pedal shelled corn by being attached to a wooden seat and was powered by bicycle gear. MIT students then went to live and study with Kiwia.Tags: Africa, Innovation, Tanzania, Twende Social Innovation