(Sorry in advance, but no pictures this time)
Since the arrival of our new machinery a few weeks ago the team has been busy unpacking, setting up and adjusting the various components to get each one operating at optimum efficiency. This time spent fine-tuning the machines is essential to ensure a smooth operation in the months ahead when they will be running 40-50 hours per week to meet product demand and help grow our business. In the past couple weeks I have already seen a glimpse into future growth as we have made our first sales of Croton Nut Oil (CNO) since my arrival and hired two new additions to the Eco Fuels Kenya team to help with our increased processing. After a bit of a slow period with national elections putting the country on hold and logistical trouble releasing the machinery from the port in Mombasa, things finally are picking up as planned here in Naro Maro.
With the new machinery up and running, as we look ahead to prepare for the next 2-4 months, a large focus of our efforts will be concentrated on building our Seed Collectors Network and the amount of Croton Nut we collect to feed the new machines. After a successful first year of creating and validating a market demand for organic fertiliser, something no other company is doing in Kenya today, we now have the capacity to build up our supply chain efforts to ensure adequate supply for future production.
Due to the environmental and economic value-add that harvesting a previously ignored and indigenously growing plant, i.e. the Croton Nut, has to the forests around Mt. Kenya and its community members we have received a lot of interest in partnerships from local governmental and non-governmental organizations whose goals align with our operations. For example, the local NGOs who work on forest protection like the idea of selling Croton Nut to Eco Fuels Kenya because it encourages the protection of the Croton Megalocarpus tree from being cut down and used as fire wood, which was the only use for it previously. Other organizations who want to help stimulate economic opportunity for Base of the Pyramid (BoP) populations support the supplemental income generated through the simple harvesting activity of collecting Croton Nuts that have matured and fallen to the ground. Both types of organizations want to help encourage the planting of Croton Megalocarpus seedlings to help re-forest areas and to create an income-generating crop out of unused land and secure environmentally-friendly sources of income for future years, which will make collections in future years simpler and more efficient.
As the case with other social enterprises who take on the challenge of building systems that previously did not exist through the assistance of community-based organizations, the key to building our Seed Collectors Network successfully will be in making sure we make the right partnerships that are beneficial to not only the agendas of each organization, but also to the environment and the communities in which we operate. With the wheels of this effort already in motion, we have had discussion and/or visits from the Laikipia Wildlife Forum, the Community Development Trust Fund and Kenya’s Climate Innovation Center, a new organization funded by the World Bank to assist the development of social enterprises based on environmental innovation. All of these relationships present exciting opportunities to increase our impact and grow our social enterprise, and I look forward to assisting their formations over the coming months.