Improving soil quality for Kenyan farmers
Soil erosion or degradation is a process that occurs naturally. The top soil wears away mainly by physical forces like wind, water and tillage. Tillage is the down slope movement of soil that leaves upper lopes bare and soil accumulates in the lower slopes. A fourth factor that causes soil degradation is human activity. It can be due to overgrazing, over cropping or deforestation. Soil erosion is perceived to be a non-renewable activity and that soil once eroded losses its value.
KOFAr Kenya Limited’s mission is to repair soils for improved food productivity in Kenya. They produce and sell affordable fortified compost that repairs soils by increasing humus and fixing nitrogen so as to assist farmers increase production of quality foods in a profitable and sustainable manner.
After formal employment for over 12 years in the finance sector, Francescah Munyi decided to start a soil amendment business in the agricultural sector. In 2009, together with her team, they began market research operations and the company was fully registered in 2011.
“KOFAr soil amendment programme” is a step of activities that allows the soil to recover and ensures that 100% crop yield is achieved in only one season. They begin by reclaiming the soil by using “K-Tiba” which targets all the chemical residues and helps in breaking down the hard pan in the soil. It improves air and water penetration. Between 4 to 7days after germination they apply “Nano Ag” which activates dormant micro-organisms and revives dead soils. In addition they also apply organic fertilizer which is a high concentrate of fine processed vegetative manure.
After the soil is amended they boost the seeds and the cuttings or any other planting material with “Seedboost”. This product improves germination and survival rate to 99%. The crops generate massive root structure which allows them to feed well, hold water and other nutrients and improve their survival rate during harsh conditions.
Francescah states, “The bananas in Chuka and Kirinyaga region increased in weight from 35kgs to 76kgs in one year after our soil amendment programme. We have many small scale coffee farmers too who have adopted our products. So far the results are evident with many recording increments from two kilograms per tree to 10 kilograms within two years.”
Crops that have benefited from the programme include coffee, vegetables, passion fruits, tea, rice, tree tomatoes, mangoes, potatoes and maize. Since 2011, the company has treated over 12,000 acres of land. “In 2017 alone, we treated over 2,000 acres, of which 1,800 was in Kirinyaga County.
In addition they also offer soil conservation services and farmers’ trainings on profitable farming. They mainly work with small holder farmers in Cooperative societies, those trained by NGOs, Community Based Organizations (CBOs), Government institutions like prisons, learning institutions and large scale farmers with damaged soils.
They are currently collaborating with 14 Cooperative societies based in the water catchment areas to work with over 100,000 small scale farmers. “We are also working with 12 medium and large scale farmers with over 10,000 acres including four CBO groups dealing with a variety of crops,” added Francescah.
They have received recognition for their hard work from a number of entities. They are Gold members in Enablis East Africa and were among the top 100 winners in the 2012 Enablis business competition. They achieved top position in the Sinapis Group Competition and were Seed Award winners in 2011. They took 1st runners up in Rwanda Horti-2015 Competition and 1st runners up in the Agri-business category at the Tangaza University 2017 Entrepreneurial Business Competition. They were recently selected by the British Council among eight others to represent social enterprises with huge impact in Ghana in 2017 and Ethiopia in 2018.
KOFAr has received business acceleration and market development services from Kenya Climatic Innovation Center (KCIC). From the accelerator programme, they received advisory on proper book keeping. The programme was also an eye opener to their business model and assisted them to expand and target clients with bigger farms (100 acres) as opposed to the one acre. The mentorship programme empowered them on breaking down their needs into smaller manageable goals. “The mentor was also instrumental in helping us change our marketing strategy. We plan to open outlets in Eldoret, Narok and Nakuru once the factory is complete,” she adds.
Their vision is to be the leading provider of affordable and effective soil amendment products in Africa. “We are working hard to achieve this vision by sourcing for funds for the construction of our factory to manufacture a fortified organic fertilizer this year,” noted Francescah. The company targets to treat 400,000 acres by 2020.
By Michelle Mung’ata