Tween Talks with Eugenia Tachie-Menson: Ah-mazing youth…Part 2

Boarding school life : Eugenia Tachie Menson Can you ‘hack’ it?
Eugenia Tachie-Menson

What has been the greatest challenge you have faced in life as yet?  School life stressing you out.  Or is it too much homework?  Or your parents stay on your case all the time? And how are you coping with it?  Maybe, if you met Richard, who hated so much the troubles lions were causing him and his family and how he overcame it, you just might be inspired.

aRichard Turer today, dressed as a Maasai Moran (warrior) – Photo by Stanley Sakana

But why did Richard Turere, 13, hate lions?  “They used to come at night and feed on our cattle when we were sleeping”, says Richard, who is from Kitengela, just south of Nairobi, Kenya.

Living on the edge of Nairobi National Park, in Kenya, Richard who comes from the Maasai community, first became responsible for herding and safeguarding his family’s cattle when he was just nine. But often, his valuable livestock, which is their main source of livelihood, would be killed by the lions roaming the Park, leaving him to count the losses.  In retaliation, the Maasai will kill the lions,

Richard was frustrated as the cattle was their main means of livelihood. He tried to come up with ways to keep the lions from attacking his family’s cows, goats and sheep – he built a scarecrow in the middle of the farm.  It worked all for a very short while because the lions figured out that it was just a ‘dummy human’ and continued to feed on the cattle.  Richard’s hate for the lions grew stronger, as did his resolve to come up with another solution to protect his cattle from falling prey to hungry lions.

By the age of 11, Richard had noticed something about lions. “I discovered that the lions were scared of the moving light.”  He realized that lions were afraid of venturing near the farm’s fence when someone was walking around with a flashlight. So, how could he use this to protect his cattle? He carefully thought it through and put his young mind to work – a few weeks later he came up with an innovative, simple and low-cost system to scare the predators away.

He fitted a series of flashing LED bulbs onto poles around the livestock field, facing outward. The lights were wired to a box with switches and to an old car battery powered by a solar panel. They were designed to flicker on and off intermittently, thus tricking the lions into believing that someone was moving around carrying a flashlight.

What’s even more impressive is that Richard devised and installed the whole system by himself, without ever receiving any training in electronics or engineering.  “I did it myself, no one taught me, I just came up with it,” says Richard. “I had to look after my dad’s cows and make sure that they were safe.”

Then only 13 years old, Richard Turere’s remarkable ingenuity had caught global attention; and was recognized with an invitation to the TED 2013 Conference, in California, USA  where he shared the stage with some of the world’s greatest thinkers, innovators and scientists.!

Why, though, did Richard’s solution to his biggest frustration catch such global attention? Because it worked!  Since Richard invented his “Lion Lights,” his family didn’t lose any livestock to the lions anymore, much to the great delight of his father and astonishment of his neighbors.

Indeed, several neighbours of Richard’s family in Kitengela sought his help, in installing the system in their enclosures. Over one thousand “Lion Light” systems have so far been across home states in Kenya.

“This is a solution that was invented by somebody in the community,” explains Paula Kahumbu, executive director of the Kenya Land Conservation Trust and chairman of the Friends of Nairobi National Park. “Therefore, the support for it is very high.”

Ms. Kahumbu and her colleagues first came across Richard’s innovation in 2011 in the course of their fieldwork. Stunned by the boy’s achievements, they helped him get a scholarship at Brookhouse International School, one of Kenya’s top educational institutions, where he moved to and continued his education.

Almost surreal, one would say – a farm boy whose frustration with a problem led him to come up with a solution which now serves an international need; saving livelihoods, which in turn saves the big cats from becoming an endangered species.

Currently, Richard’s Lion Lights invention is being used in India for tigers and in Argentina for pumas.

What invention will your frustration lead you to come up with?

*parts culled from CNN Business

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