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The Surprising Plant Helping Kenyan Farmers Prosper

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Many families in Kisumu, Kenya survive by making rope out of sisal—a fierce-looking plant with sharp, sword-like leaves. The rope can be used to make bags, floor mats, and other craft items. Yet because processing sisal is difficult and time-consuming, there is more demand for rope than farmers can currently fill. Enter Alex Odundo. He collected scrap metal from bicycle sprockets, motorcycle chains, and other sources to build machines that could efficiently process the plant into fiber and then rope. It took him nine prototypes, but Odundo’s machines—the Sisal Dicorticator and the Sisal Twinner— have proven a godsend for his community. With around 100 models sold, these machines are helping farmers support themselves amid the uncertainty of climate change.

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