Coco pith: the magical waste product
Coconuts are quite the magical plant. Its oil can be used for a variety of cooking and beauty purposes, its water is extra hydrating, and, it turns out, its pith can be used to grow new plants.Coco pith is the byproduct extracted from the coconut husk after the fiber is removed. While it used to be simply burned as a waste material, 26-year-old James Kapombe of Cocogrowrealized that it could actually be used for more productive purposes.
The Birth of CocoGrow
Kapombe began working in commercial tomato farming after having graduated from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in 2014. The farm was utilizing coco pith to help grow the tomatoes but was importing it from Sri Lanka. Kapombe didn’t understand why they couldn’t use the abundant coco pith that local residents were burning as a waste product- a process that releases carbon dioxide.
Furthermore, transferring the tomato plants from one location into the main soil was causing “transplant shock”- a failure of the plant to root well, causing the plant to become poorly established in the new environment. He realized that a solution to this problem is hydroponic farming- a soil-less cultivation technique.
Kapombe thus decided to start his own company using coco pith and hydroponic farming, and hence Cocogrow was born.
Benefits of Coco Pith
Coco pith is a highly nutritious and hydrating growing medium that meets all of the moisture and nutrient requirements of the growing seeds. It also boasts a high air retention capacity, which provides enough oxygen to roots even when watered just a little. As a result, using coco pith along with the hydroponic technique uses 10 times less water than traditional farming methods. Furthermore, coco pith’s anti-fungal properties prevent soil-borne diseases, hence curbing the use of pesticides. Cocogrow thus mitigates a variety of climate challenges: waste management, water management, and cutting down on polluting pesticides.
In addition to environmental benefits, Cocogrow has also provided an economic boost to the community of coastal Kenya. Kapombe has employed 6 peopleand created a demand for coco piths, which were initially being discarded. It has also cut down on the expense and wasted time associated with imports, instead contributing to the local economy.
Kapombe is one of Kenya Climate Innovation Center’s (KCIC) newest and youngest clients. Having joined in June of 2018, Kapombe hopes that KCIC will help his company to expand markets and production. Ultimately, his vision is to create more sustainable systems for Africa. He is an inspiring example that you are never too young to be an entrepreneur and to start fighting climate change.
By: Alise Brillault