Engineer invents new tobacco barn

As 85,000 small-scale tobacco growers register with the sales floors, KENNETH MATIMAIRE reports that an ingenious Zimbabwe has designed a sawdust barn in an attempt to limit the destruction of our forests to cure the golden leaves.

Godfrey Mudariki in the small field he used to grow leaves to test the barn.
Godfrey Mudariki in the small field he used to grow leaves to test the barn.

Engineer Godfrey Mudariki has invented an environmentally friendly tobacco barn to ease deforestation triggered by the rising number of small-scale tobacco farmers.

He started working on his sawdust tobacco barn in 2012 and completed the prototype last year, using a $20,000 grant from the Ministry of Science and Technology.

“I finished working on the prototype barn last year at the cost of $3,000. The prototype was successfully tested and I’m now ready to roll out the actual barn to interested farmers,” said Mudariki in an interview. Building of the actual plant cost $7,000. He used the balance of the funding to produce 1,000 sawdust stoves.

He appealed to government to introduce the environmentally friendly barn to all tobacco farmers in order to curb the rampant cutting down of trees.

“I was forced to come up with this invention having witnessed massive deforestation. There are now too many tobacco farmers due to the viability of the sector. But they produce their tobacco at a huge cost to the environment and we can’t stop them. All tobacco farmers should be encouraged to make use of the sawdust barn,” he urged.

Mudariki said his first challenge was to secure a cheap and plentiful supply of tobacco leaves to use during the testing of the prototype. So he decided to grow his own tobacco for the trials.


The tobacco barn, which Mudariki has christened the Zim Asset Sawdust Tobacco Barn, is eight metres long and has capacity to cure two hectares of tobacco at one time. It has four compartments with each column having a 15 centimetre space from one golden leaf to the other. The leaves range from 80cm to 100cm long.

The ban has six cartilages used to heat the tobacco. Each cartilage is equivalent to a 200 litre-drum. The barn uses 22 cartilages of sawdust for the seven days needed to cure the leaves under controlled temperatures.

The barn is made of galvanised plain sheets and casted iron, which the indigenous engineer said made it durable. Mudariki has also invented other environmentally friendly products such as the sawdust stove, chicken heaters and geysers.

He has been receiving support from the Ministry of Science as well as the Environmental Management Agency and Environmental Africa.

Success story

He believes his barn could be the answer for many farmers – provided there is government intervention. “I have invented something that is ours, something that has come at the right time. If government chips in to ensure aggressive implementation, we could have a success story here,” he said.

His call comes as some 85,000 tobacco farmers were recorded during the opening of the three auction floors – Boka Auction Floors, Tobacco Sales Floor and Premier Tobacco Sales Floor. Of these 26,444 are new growers.

They have been fingered as the chief culprits of environmental degradation through the cutting down of trees to cure their tobacco. Before the controversial land reform programme, commercial tobacco farmers used mainly coal or gas to cure their tobacco, while many grew woodlots specifically for curing purposes.

Reports from the EMA suggest that 20 percent of the country’s forests have been lost to the furnaces of tobacco curing.

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