Ag Mechanization Skills for Former Street Youth in Kenya

$10K Challenge Winner


Working for everyone

Student lead: Daniel A. Gentilini, Mechanical engineering

In Western Kenya, efficient farming comes at a steep price. The average tractor costs more than $11,000 and, with a per capita GDP of just $3,500, many farmers are unable to afford reliable farm equipment. With 75% of Kenyans employed in agriculture, a practical solution is necessary to help farmers improve their access to markets, productivity, and family income. That’s why the Purdue Utility Project is key to making a difference.

For over 10 years, the PUP team has used engineering techniques to design multi-purpose vehicles for communities around the globe. One advantage of these vehicles is that they’re built locally providing an affordable and labor-saving alternative for small-holder farmers.

With help from the Ford Motor Company Fund, the PUP team has partnered with the Tumaini Innovation Center in Eldoret, Kenya to equip a makerspace where students can see their ideas move from concepts to products. The classroom to market experience with the PUP vehicle improves job readiness, provides business opportunities, and serves the needs of local farmers.

In the summer of 2018, the PUP team traveled to Eldoret and completed three vehicles. During this time, the Tumaini students worked alongside Purdue students to build, test, repair and drive the PUP vehicles. Tumaini students also tested the vehicles’ ability to generate portable electrical power and pump water. Beyond the exchange of technical knowledge, everyone benefited from the opportunity to learn about one another’s unique cultural backgrounds.

With the three completed vehicles, at an average cost of $1500 each, Tumaini has already begun to reach out to farmers in the local area, but more work is needed. With the Ford C3 $10,000 bonus, we would work with Tumaini to build a fourth vehicle, host demonstration days, train area farmers, and provide services using the PUP vehicles. These activities will continue to strengthen the partnership with Tumaini through additional engineering education and technical training opportunities. The funding will also create further economic opportunities to advance sustainable agriculture and mobility within the local farming community.

Mobility is not always tied to passenger vehicles. Tumaini Community Based Organization and Purdue students are among those in the Purdue Utility Project who develop various multipurpose vehicle platforms. In this case, with 20 former street youth, they will refine a small utility vehicle’s design, and fabricate and test several prototypes for local farmers’ use. Limited economical on-farm power is one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest contributors of Real Gross Product, results in productivity often much less than other continents. Small holder farmers, particularly female, on whose shoulders agricultural labor is increasingly falling due to male labor migration, are limited by affordable transportation, which limits the use of labor saving technologies.

Community feedback is not only heard during utility vehicle testing, but at the start as to the needs of the people through the African partner. The community also gets mechanical engineering curriculum from the university students. The project’s sustainability comes in the curriculum implementation and replication. Creation of a mini-PUP allows small holder farmers to cultivate increased acreage and move produce to market.


  • Tumaini Community Based Organization
  • Tumaini Center