Samwel Nyagucha

Samwel designed a stronger, lighter basket for his tea-picking colleagues – a container which has since been introduced across Unilever’s tea estates in Kenya.

Making life easier

Samwel Nyagucha may have earned his living as a tea picker in Kenya for the last ten years but he has hidden skills as a product designer and blacksmith. He put these to good use to create a new type of basket to aid the process of picking tea leaves in the estates across Kenya.
Tea Estate Manager Philip K Sigey explains: “I first met Samwel in 2007 upon being posted to Kaptien Estate. I was attracted by his unique basket because ordinarily we used two kinds of bags to hold leaf during the harvesting process.”

The first was a receptacle, which was made of plastic – PVC and polypropylene – with a metal ring on top, which was dragged behind the tea pickers as they worked. The second was a plucking basket which was carried on workers’ backs.

A novel new design

Samwel’s design, which was based on baskets he had seen used in other fields while he was travelling, combined the two different holders to produce a metal cage covered with a polypropylene bag.
The new basket design held more leaves, was light and easy to carry and was long-lasting.

Philip, who nominated Samwel for a Unilever Heroes award, says: “I felt it was a great achievement. Samwel was very enthusiastic and passionate about it. Bravo for the great idea.”

Preserving the freshness of tea leaves

In 2011 the basket was modified as part of a quality drive to make it better aerated to preserve the freshness of the harvested leaf. In 2012, around 6,500 baskets were introduced, reaching all the estates in Unilever Tea Kenya.   

Samwel says: “I am excited to see the tea pickers using my basket design in the field.”