What it is: IZECHURN is a redesign of our original hand-operated milk churner for ghee making (Agricultural Mechanization in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, 40(4): 34-37, 2009), that saw no up-take because it was not designed with women operators in mind. The original design was not female friendly–not ergonomically and culturally appropriate. The redesign was accomplished using a human-centered (participatory) approach with groups of women from two dominant ethnolinguistic groups of Bantu and Nilotic of Uganda and its usability was tested. The success of this project taught us lessons about human-centered design, now well entrenched in all the teaching and work we do.
The problem it solves and impact: In many sub-Saharan African countries, smallholder dairy farming is a significant source of employment and income. The dairy markets in these countries are separated into two main channels: an informal and a formal channel. In the informal channel, typically commanding over 75% of the market, the morning milk can be taken to markets because it is daytime and people can safely travel. However, the evening milk is either wasted or processed into lower-value products because it is highly perishable and cannot be kept fresh until the next morning, when it is safe to travel (smallholders have no access to electricity and night travel is unsafe). This evening milk problem has been identified to be acute in nine sub-Saharan countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Madagascar, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and Zambia, and in many other developing countries. Ghee is one of the lower-value products that are made from the milk to reduce the evening milk postharvest loss. Unfortunately, the traditional ghee production process involves a labor-intensive and time-consuming churning process that is predominantly done by women in guards. IZECHURN reduces labor up to 8-fold and expanded the range of uses to include children and husbands due to its simplicity. In addition, IZECHURN significantly reduces the undesirable health effects, like pain in knee-joints. Based on the experience with the churner, a six-item “survival guide” has been proposed to complement human-centered design guiding principles for facilitating the generation of solutions in low-resource settings.
The delivery business model: IZECHURN is manufactured and marketed in Uganda by Thermogenn. Typical customers are groups of women – self-organized – who collectively own the IZECHURN and take turns churning their fermented milk for ghee making. They may combine their ghee and sell to singe buyer, who takes the product to urban markets. Some of these women groups may belong to a savings group, which facilitates payment of the product through mobile money. Tens of IZECHURNs have been sold to single farmers, who tend be rural, but with many more cows that the typical smallholder farmer. These farmers typically pay for the product in full outright.