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Full Power: meet the ingenious Kenyan student who built a power station from scratch

2 min read

Good Stuff
Full Power: meet the ingenious Kenyan student who built a power station from scratch
Source: qyl.ice.cam.ac.uk

John Magiro is the brains behind a mini hydro-electric power plant which utilises a local waterfall to provide power to some 300 households in rural Kenya.

Power to the People!

When Kenyan John Magiro Wangari, from Mathioya, Muranga, was 21, he became fed up with the lack of electricity in his community. The sole source of power was in the nearest town centre which was quite some distance on foot. Around five million of Kenya’s eight million households are not connected to the national grid, say the International Finance Corporation (IFC). John Magiro had had enough, and decided to take matters into his own hands.

He put together a turbine system and now generates and supplies electricity at lower prices John aims to alleviate the work of collecting firewood, predominantly done by women and girls, by promoting renewable energy as a business sector and creating a hydroelectric plant from a small waterfall. Source: Facebook/ThisIsZinc

Now with support from the government, Magiro employs 10 young locals to produce electricity

While still a student, John Magiro managed to produce hydro-electric power using the parts from an old bicycle. He gets his water from the local River Godo, in his village. Despite turning in a poor performance in physics at school, John was able to use his knowledge and ability to improvise over a period of three years, and to improve his prototype until he was able to generate enough electricity to power his mother’s home.

He began his mini hydro-electric power plant by borrowing Sh6,000 (€50/$60) from his mother, and by selling goats and rabbits he kept at home. John Magiro hoped to generate enough electricity to power his community as well as a nearby school. 

His entrepreneurial pursuits were noticed by NETFUND as they scouted for entries for the The Green Innovation Award, which focuses on discovering new talent and innovations like John Magiro and his mini hydro-plant. 

Through a nationwide search, National Environment Trust Fund (NETFUND) seeks to recognise, award and incubate green innovations in the field of Nature-based Enterprise, Water, Waste Management and Energy.

Now with support from the Kenyan government, through the NETFUND, Magiro currently employs 10 young locals to produce electricity while conserving the environment.

Sources: GabrielKihara, TheQueensYoungLeaders

John harnesses the power of the nearby River Godo to run his turbine and bring electricity to communities in rural Kenya. He was a high school student without prior knowledge of power production and installation when he started working on the project.
The river Godo: source of John’s power John harnesses the power of the nearby River Godo to run his turbine and bring electricity to communities in rural Kenya. He was a high school student without prior knowledge of power production and installation when he started working on the project. Source: Facebook/JohnMagiro

The NETFUND Effect: what their backing means

John Magiro joined the NETFUND Incubation Program in 2015 after winning first place in the NETFUND Green Innovations Award, Individual category. He has so far received business training from Daystar University, mentorship and coaching from technical experts who have also helped refine his technology. 

Magiro has received seed funding that has enabled him to install a generator, turbine, control system, pressure pipe, stabiliser, power line cables, transformer, d-iron and posts. 

This improvement is expected to see Magiro increase his customer base to at least 266 households, one industry and two schools by 2022. As part of providing linkages, the NETFUND Incubation program has provided Magiro with additional funding from the East African Hub Grant from the Pollination Project

Additionally, Magiro was part of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program (TEEP) 2016. Magiro also got an opportunity to pitch his innovation to over 50 investors at the NETFUND Investors Forum in May 2016.

Source: NETFUND

Being able to charge mobile phones and study at night has raised the quality of life for the villagers.
Mini power station is a big deal to locals Being able to charge mobile phones and study at night has raised the quality of life for the villagers. Source: Facebook/JohnMagiro
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NETFUND’s bottom-line is the promotion of self-regulation and economic growth in environmental management. In this regard NETFUND aspires to support the development of 100 Green companies by 2025 with at least one company having an average turnover of Kenya shillings 100 million, and a staff portfolio of 50 - 100. Click to find out how you can help.