Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wheat Thresher and Winnower

The wheat crop in Chilakonda has reached maturity. I realized it would be very difficult to thresh all that wheat by hand by beating with sticks and then tossing in winnowing baskets to clean it. Besides beating causes damage to the grain so I decided to build a pedal powered thresher and winnower to do the job.  The project was generously funded by the Friends of Malawi (

After making careful plans I went into town to buy the supplies and materials. The agriculture department provided transportation to the village. We had a pretty good load.

The power units are 2 bicycles - one for each machine. We removed all unnecessary parts.

For the thresher we built a box out of plywood and attached the front and rear wheels of one of the bikes inside to provide the bearings and support for the threshing drum. The sprocket on the rear wheel is also used to drive the drum.

We drilled holes in boards. . .

. . . and bent pieces of heavy wire into a V shape. The ends of these wires were put into the holes in the boards and the ends bent over on the back to hold them in place.

These boards were attached to the wheels with screws. Here I am working with Johanne Banda, the father of David Banda who was adopted by Madonna. He is a skilled carpenter, metal worker, brick layer and general craftsman.

Here is the finished thresher. Later we added a cover over the wheel to keep the wheat from flying all over.

Next was cutting the frame for the winnower. The fan was made by removing the spokes and rims from the bike wheels and screwing on 4 pieces of plywood for fan blades.

The finished winnower.

The women of Chilokonda Wheat project trying out the thresher. It worked better than I expected, taking the grain off the stems very well. The only problem is that a fair amount of straw and a few un-threshed heads end up with the wheat. Some kind of screen needs to be added to reduce that.


Here is the winnower in action. Wheat is poured in at the top and drops down the chute while the fan blows air up the chute taking chaff, dust and straw with it. We found the speed of the fan is to slow so I am having 2 bike sprockets welded together to boost the rpms.
If this project is successful we will build more of these next year. I also want to teach the farmers how to design and build simple machines to make other jobs easier.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Installation of a Village Headman

A big crowd of people from Malamula village are coming to present the man they want to be their Village Headman to the Group Village Headman.

Members of Gule Wankulu come along.

The next day is the installation ceremony. This is the Group Village Headman with his wife and child. The GVH has authority over a number of Village Headmen.

The drummers are warming up the crowd.

The prospective Headman and his wife have their heads covered so people cannot see their faces until the proper moment.

The minister of the GVH makes introductions.

A distinguished army veteran.

Some masked Gule Wankulu dancers.

This one looks a little like Michael Jackson.

I think this one represents a horse.

This one is some kind of wild man.

Another shot of the minister to the Group Village Headman

The new village headman being introduced to the people.

Some of the important women of the village.

Here I am with my Village Headman, Lipunga, on the left and my Group Village Headman, Kapanula, on the right. These leaders always take the name of the village. They are considered to "own" the village - all the land and people.

Wedding in Kapanulu

Today there is a big wedding in Kapanula village which is right next to Lipunga.

Naturally there is lots of entertainment. This is a dancing band with unusual instruments made of gourds. They sound like kazoos and the members do a dance with light steps forward and back like they are trying not to touch the ground.

This is a group from the Ngombe tribe performing the Gule Wangome dance which you have seen before in previous blogs. Mr Lipunga is having one of these costumes made for me. Tune in later for the results!

There were many people from several villages at the wedding celebration.

The bride and groom. The somber look is intentional - people feel it is inappropriate to appear too happy or excited.

It's also traditional to cover the heads of the bride and groom before the ceremony.

There are always cute little girls in special dresses. . .

. . . and all the friends and relatives.

Family members give advice and congratulate the couple - much like toasts at American weddings.

Here I am with my "club" given to me by Mr Lipunga.


Even though it is just little bits of electricity flying through the ether the contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps.