NAIROBI, Kenya — When young David Maraga saw his village elders struggle to consume the harsh herbal medicine his people have been using for centuries, he knew he could make a difference for his community. Born and raised in Kitui, a hamlet outside the country’s capital, Maraga, was just seventeen years old when he devised a cheap, portable system to filter the heavier plant particles from reaching the lungs of medicine users. The initial contraption, an airtight glass jar, clean water from the communal well, and a small reed to hold the ground herbs and funnel smoke through the water, is deceivingly simple.
“The suffering of my people was unbearable,” Mr. Maraga, now a university student in Nairobi, recalls, “The elders would cough and wheeze so much when they met nightly in the Medicine Hut, so I was inspired by American media to find a cleaner way of inhaling our healing herbs.” His invention worked so well that word quickly spread throughout the community and Maraga found himself making filtration systems for villages all across Kenya.
Now studying both Finance and Fluid Engineering at the University of Nairobi, David Maraga shows no signs of letting up, “I know how much our traditional medicine means to my people and want a clean, renewable way of sharing it with the world. I am eager to improve the designs while in school; I think the next step is probably a gravity bong.”