Kijito Wind Power Limited

Thursday, 25 Jul 2024

The Harries family: from pineapple farming to pioneering wind energy in Kenya

The Harries family came to Kenya in 1904, as some of the earlier settler farmers. In 1912 we were responsible for bringing pineapples to Kenya, which later was developed into a very large business by Bobs Harries when the original Canning Factory, he helped build in 1947, was taken over in 1965 by DelMonte. In the 1960's together with the Ministry of Agriculture we pioneered Macadamia Nuts, and built this crop into the second biggest acreage in the world, behind Hawaii. We are the same family that over the last 30 years, has pioneered Wind Technology in Kenya, through our Company Kijito Windpower Limited (KWPL).
In the early 1970's, Mike who had inherited the 500 acre farm when his father Bobs died in 1970, donated a month a year to flying his small bush plane for a Christian Medical Mission called ''Sight by Wings''. During these very challenging and exciting trips, Mike discovered that much of the blindness the surgeons were treating was as a result of Trachoma. The basic cause of this was that children in the arid areas of East Africa often did not have enough water to wash their faces, and this lack of hygiene was a major contributing factor in the disease.
When in 1977 the company enjoyed excellent prices for their coffee crop, Mike decided to try and do something about that Trachoma problem. The fact that over the few years prior to the ''coffee boom'' Kenya had experienced some severe droughts, with a resulting rationing of mains electricity from the hydro powered grid system, made Mike's thoughts turn to Alternative Energy.

5 years of development, 29 years of experience

The Intermediate Technology Development Group of Britain, had expressed interest in trying to develop an appropriate Windpump for the Developing World. A visit to the prototype machine at Reading University in 1977, resulted a little later in KWPL becoming the first of six collaborators in six different Countries to try to work with ITDG on this project. However, it very quickly became apparent that the ITDG prototype would not withstand harsh operating conditions, it was also not able to pump from any great depths. KWPL therefore took the decision to start the long and often difficult development programme. Unfortunately the other 5 Countries did not seem to be very interested in any development work, and so it was left to our family Company (KWPL) to see the whole process through to a commercially viable and mechanically sound range of water lifting windmills, under the trade name ''Kijito''.
In 1979 KWPL started the actual commercial production of our range of KIJITO Windpumps, which are mechanical direct drive modern machines. After 5 years of development, the KIJITO Windpumps reached their final design. Since then, it has been a Company priority to continuously improve our products.
Our Company has been committed to creating trustful and long-term relationship with our partners and customers. Supplying water in arid areas is more than a business, it is a huge responsibility. That is the reason why we are now very proud of the partnerships established with many of our customers which have resulted in the continuous improvement of the KIJITO windpump technology resulting in high performance, constant reliability and customer's and end-user's entire satisfaction.
In the early stages technical assistance was supplied by the Overseas Development Administration (ODA - now DFID) of the British Government, and financial assistance from Barclays Bank. ODA contracted Mike Neale and Associates to provide the technical consultancy, they in turn appointed Paul Dawson to work out in Kenya with KWPL for more than a year. Paul used his experience with KIJITO to branch out and develop his own range of smaller water pumping windmills under the trade name Poldaw, together with Sandy Polack. Also during the early 1980's Simon Batchelor who had studied Agriculture at Reading, returned to work with KWPL for three years, and on the strength of that returned to Reading University and wrote a PhD on ''Windpump Systems'' which he completed in 1989.
This technical assistance and R&D collaboration in those early years contributed hugely to the field testing and performance certification of the KIJITO windpumps.
In 1986 we were honoured by a visit from HRH Prince Charles who came to further his interests in alternative energy.
Since 1979, just under 500 Kijito windpumps have been manufactured. About three quarters have been installed in Kenya. One fourth goes to export. Indeed we have regular orders from all East African countries, and sometimes even from further in Africa and beyond.

Certainly a technology of the past, it is also a technology for the future

It is encouraging to observe that the recent awareness about global warming is growing worldwide and has modified people's perceptions of renewable energy. It has certainly pushed us to develop the Company further, and look into other related issues.
As an alternative to more conventional present day sources of energy, windpower must be considered. Certainly a technology of the past, it is also a technology for the future. It combines experience with promise.
Many of our windpump installations are on rehabilitated boreholes, replacing old or broken down diesel or electrical pumps, alleviating the problems of constant maintenance and fuel supply in remote areas.

The next aspect of KIJITO wind systems: power generation

Presently we at KWPL are also exploring the field of wind power generation. Within its commitment to rural development, KWPL aims at widening its wind-based solutions for rural services.
In Africa we know how much a sustainable supply of water is essential for life. In the rural areas, water also provides the basis of the economy. However, nowadays electricity is another important development consideration. That is the reason why KWPL is taking advantage of its 29 years of wind energy expertise to develop wind power generation in East Africa.
Wind is one of the greatest sources of natural energy. It is free and available by day and night for production of economical energy to pump water and generate electricity. Windmills, Windpumps and Wind Generators need no fuel, require little maintenance and have long operational lives. Provided local wind conditions are adequate, these energy systems will always work more cheaply and with less trouble than the conventional engines.