As progress continues in the upgraded Eco Fuels Kenya factory and daily operation starts to move towards an autonomous flow, the management team now looks forward to further implementing its strategic plan for the future. Specifically what this means is diving deeper into the market for organic farming and organic fertilizers in Kenya and looking to collaborate with other players in the field who have equally vested interest in the people, environment and economics of the country’s agricultural future. It is an unfortunate, yet common occurrence to hear from prospective clients whose soils have been damaged by heavy use of DAP and NPK fertilizers over the years. Everyone from large-scale commercial farmers to a growing number of agro-finance social enterprises that help subsistence farmers increase income are actively looking for ways to repair their soil conditions for increased production (i.e. yield and plant size) now and to ensure longevity for future seasons, two of the main benefits of planting with organic fertilizers.
Back in mid-2012 Eco Fuels Kenya was told by KEBS that our organic fertilizer brand, Eco Fertilizers Kenya, was the first organic fertilizer being produced in the country. Since that time we have become aware of a number of other locally produced organic fertilizer and farming initiatives, but there is still a lot of work to be done to educate and build awareness in the development of a growing organic farming ecosystem that focuses on short and long term benefit to the country and its people.
Some players and initiatives in the organic farming movement across Kenya worth noting include Ashoka Fellow Nelson Kariuki, who has made significant progress facilitating policy changes to enable increased use of organic fertilizer in the country and helped start an organic fertilizer brand called Rutuba. Next is the work of the Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN), which is using a network of organic farming stakeholders to fulfill its mission of improving the livelihoods of small scale producers in Kenya through organic agriculture. Their monthly publication, The Organic Farmer, helps to bring education, unity, and facilitate collaboration in a young, but growing section of Kenya’s agricultural economy. Last but not least are up and coming social enterprises including ourselves and companies such as Sanergy, which increase sanitation in Kenya’s slums through micro-franchised toilets and produces energy and organic manure out of the collected waste.
Despite momentum for Kenya’s organic movement being underway, there is still much work to be done. Proper scientific control testing for all organic fertilizers on the market and outreach/education are among the major challenges which Eco Fuels Kenya seeks to undertake in partnership with local and global organizations that have interests in encouraging sustainable agriculture practices. With their help, we hope to move these conversations from a community level to an international level and engage not only direct buyers and sellers of goods, but also the government which has the ability to influence the flow of imported chemical agricultural inputs, help encourage investments into local organic agriculture companies and build infrastructure that every modern economy needs in order to thrive that is currently lacking in places where large agricultural operations are taking place across Kenya.
As Eco Fuels Kenya continues to grow production levels at our new factory site we have higher ambitions than simply developing a market for organic fertilizers. We want to set an example for the country and the rest of East Africa how value can be created from indigenous, organic resources that have been historically ignored or discarded. Through partnerships we will demonstrate that the biggest impact can be achieved if we work together towards common goals instead of independently in silos where efforts are often inefficient or wasted. Our success will prove that, with the use of today’s technology we don’t have to ignore BoP (Base of the Pyramid) community members from either side our supply chain just because they live in rural communities or have little to no formal education or job training. And through replication of our model, fulfilling our vision of six additional factory sites across the country in the next six years, we’ll help pave the way for Kenya’s organic farming future.