Have you ever heard of sisal?  Well, you are in for a treat my friends!

This cactus-like, sword-bearing plant is an economic staple for farmers around the world. For generations, sisal has been a labor-intensive crop, that is until it found its way into the hands of Alex Odundo, a Kenyan farmer who was determined to unlock its potential.

Before we get into Alex’s story, you are probably wondering what sisal is used for. Sisal (Agave Sisalana) was first cultivated for commercial use in the late 1930’s when countries from Asia to Africa discovered the economic benefits it provided. Sisal’s uses range from mats, rugs, hats, and brushes, to an array of marine, agricultural, and shipping purposes. The uses for sisal come from its strong fibers, but the process of stripping these fibers is extremely laborious. 1

Meet Alex Odundo!

Alex Odundo grew up watching his mother harvest and strip the fibers of the sisal plant by hand. This was a tedious process that inspired him to invent machines that would do all the work for her. These inventions have not only changed his life but the lives of others.

You may not know a lot about cacti (and neither did I) but this video from Great Big Story highlights Alex’s story which is nothing short of fascinating!

Isn’t this awesome? When I stumbled across this video, I was absolutely amazed! Certainly not for the fact that Alex made machines, but for his determination to invent.

In the face of climate change, Africa is poised to be one of the continents most impacted by its effects. Crops like sisal help to give farmers stability in the face of uncertainty, and inventive spirits like Alex are coming up with new ways to thrive as the world changes.

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Leave Inspired…

Image: Man stripping fibers of sisal by using decorticator

Source: Wikipedia

What can we learn from creators and innovators like Alex Odundo? With a career in engineering in my sights, I felt a connection to his story. What impact can each of us have on the world?

Perseverance can be a struggle if we lack the patience or the drive to finish something in its entirety. Bumps in the road and how we react to them ultimately decide our fate.

We all can aspire for something better.


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  1. “Sisal.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 01 Sept. 2016. Web. 13 July 2018. <https://www.britannica.com/plant/sisal>.
  2. “The Surprising Plant Helping Kenyan Farmers Prosper.” YouTube. Great Big S, 18 Dec. 2017. Web. 13 July 2018. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGM6He40Wlc&feature=youtu.be>.

Dakota Phenix is a part-time barista and a full-time world enthusiast! He's heading to Clarkson University to study engineering, and in his spare time, you can find him being a social butterfly.