Smallholders in Kenya are receiving training in good soil practices and the application of 100% organic inputs to scale up soil restoration and reduce plant stress under changing climatic conditions.
Bean, coffee, rice and maize farmers, as well as fruit farmers in Kenya, are accessing affordable, organic inputs to boost their soil health and climate resilience. The products contain biodegradable materials, such as seaweed and plant extracts, which help to balance soil pH, increase moisture retention, and boost soil fertility to help crops survive harsh weather conditions. Since 2016, over 20,000 farmers have been trained in good soil practices and in the application of these products. As a result, banana and coffee farmers have doubled their yields, while bean, rice and maize farmers have seen at least a 40% increment within one season of organic fertiliser use.
Developed by Kenyan start-up, KOFAR, in collaboration with the University of Texas and Kenya research institutions, the formulations include K-Tiba (Reclaim); this soil stimulant works to reverse the damaging effects of continuous chemical inputs and enhance crop growth by reducing sodium content in the root zone. Another innovation is Tawi Plus, a foliar treatment which is used to increase carbohydrate levels within a plant and increase yields. A 120 ml bottle of Tawi Plus costs KSh 1,200 (€10.46) and contains strains of the high-nutrient seaweed kelp found in temperate oceans, as well as growth stimulants and specific vital trace elements, to improve plant health and reduce plant stress.
“What motivates me to work is to see the small-scale farmers who rely entirely on farming being able to increase their earnings and, at the same time, knowing that now the farmers who have used our products have cleaner and safer food to eat,” says KOFAR founder, Francescah Munyi, who initially came up with the idea when she saw that productivity on her mother’s farm was flagging. “At first I was sceptical about the KOFAR products, but 1 year later my fears have been put to rest, I even refer all my friends to KOFAR,” says coffee grower John Murimi. Increased use of the inputs is also encouraging farmers to move away from synthetic fertilisers which, in turn, is helping to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide: “I used to use 7 bags of chemical fertiliser per planting season, now I only use one!” exclaims Joseph Munene, a rice farmer from Bahati.
The company is now looking for support to scale out the training and sale of its products across Kenya and the wider east African region.