Seeing Beyond Today

Written by Donald Akanga, Project Management Associate

The first Millennium Development Goal – Eradicating Extreme Poverty and Hunger – continues to be among the top priorities of the non-governmental organization (NGO) sector. The commitment towards poverty eradication has attracted quite a number of agencies and organizations, who have dedicated immense resources, determined to attain this seemingly elusive goal. KOMAZA has dedicated itself to poverty eradication not only by words but also through actions; principally through tree growing with the rural families in Kenya’s Kilifi County. Unlike some organizations and initiatives that “give fish” to the poor, KOMAZA goes an extra mile to “teach the poor how to fish,” by empowering communities to be self-sustaining. In addition, the short term crops programme addresses food security issues among farmers as they await the long term goal of getting income from the eucalyptus trees.

Farmer training and awareness-creation regarding the issues related to poverty eradication has been a key element in KOMAZA. Farmers have been trained on the various climate resilient measures of dealing with the effect of rainfall variability.

Farmers being taken through a training session by a field staff during one of the KOMAZA field days.

 

Introduction of drought tolerant crops such as sorghum and cowpea enables farmers to make optimum use of the little available rainfall. Provision of farm input and seed in form of soft loans to farmers who cannot afford cash purchases has been a commendable initiative for the rural farmers. The farmers who excel are identified and rewarded as a way of boosting their morale, and encouraging others to aim at similar or even greater heights.

The inception of the Training and Community Outreach Department in the organization has gone a long way in strengthening this aspect of sustainability, which is a fundamental tenet in the development sphere. The organization understands the importance of instilling the appropriate values among the little ones in a bid to foster environmental conservation and sustainable development. During the 2013 field day, we hosted an interesting category of community stakeholders. These may pass for normal kindergarten pupils, but they have a vital role in shaping the future. Their decisions in years to come will, to a great extent, determine the direction of the unborn generations in the critical issues of climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as sustainable development.

KOMAZA staff Charles and Elizabeth talking to the Kivukoni School pupils during the 2013 Field Day.

In early 2014, KOMAZA plans to host fourth year students of Environmental Studies and Community Development from Kenyatta University as part of its outreach activities. The aim is to provide a learning platform to the young scholars on the practicality of promoting sustainable development through social entrepreneurship. These, among other programmes within KOMAZA, contribute to the improvement of livelihoods not just today but also tomorrow. At KOMAZA, we are seeing beyond today.

Enhancing Best Practice Among Farmers

By Elizabeth Nyagoha

Capacity building and training are among the major boosters of goal achievement in organizations working with communities. A short-term crop pre-harvest survey report in July 2013 among KOMAZA farmers highlights strengthening of farmer trainings as a major recommendation. Achievement of this is going to be easy, thanks to the creation of the training and community outreach department that will oversee all training needs within the organization and propose best approaches for delivering trainings to staff and farmers. On- farm training is perhaps the way to go.

Field Managers and Officers offer sound advice and tips

Farmers listen attentively

 

One of such an event was organized on 3rd October by the Field Extension Network of Mtsara wa Tsatsu, with Alfred Kiti, the field manager being the overall planner. Part of the office staff in Kilifi who would represent those unable to make it had prepared early enough for the journey to Mtsara. This was a day of its kind and was show casing a farmer whose efforts and commitment in the project has captured the eyes of many. The farmer has since when the project was introduced in the location been planting trees. Currently the farmer has five eucalyptus plots under the care of his family. He also engages in other income generating crops like pineapples, cashew nuts and cassava.

Mathias Mutisya, the Country Director, admires the farmers’ hard work

Farmers walk through one of the woodlots. Rainfall in the area is unreliable. The use of Zhai pits ensures water is collected for use by the tree when it rains

 

Best maintenance practices have helped the farmer reduce tree mortality in the early stages of maturity

 

Cashew nuts and pineapples: What started as a trial and error has become an income generating activity for the farmer. He has 850 pineapple plants which are sold at Kshs. 50 each after harvesting.

The farmer narrates how planting cassava has helped his family have a continuous food supply

 

On this day both Komaza and non Komaza farmers were invited to come and learn from this farmer. The day also served as a forum for collaboration with other stake holders including the local administration and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Representative from the Ministry of Agriculture

Representative from the local administration

 

It was also an opportunity for the office staffs in Kilifi office including the top management to have a feel of what the field staff go through and be able to learn the ideal field situations. Best practices among the farmer and other farmers too were rewarded.

A farmer receives awards from Travis, KOMAZA’s Technology Manager

A Farmer receives an award from KOMAZA’s Country Director

 

Well, having told and shown the farmers the way, we have to remain persistent and encourage them more to take up on the best practices. After all, “what one farmer can do others can do better!!!”

The yuck yields wows

Six months ago KOMAZA’s Director of Operations & Continuous Improvement returned from a roadtrip through Nairobi with 4 hefty bags of fertilizer.  Had it been normal fertilizer, the story would end there.  But this was special fertilizer; it was made from human poo as manufactured by a fellow social enterprise called Sanergy.  Sanergy gathers human waste from toilets in Nairobi’s informal settlements and converts it into fertilizer for sale to farmers.  The challenge was to convince KOMAZA’s staff that human poo turned to fertilizer isn’t as yucky as imagined.  In fact, it’s full of great nutrients since humans feed themselves so much better than we feed cows, goats or chickens.  To make the argument, we setup an experiment in which we planted half a sorghum plot with the human fertilizer.

The results visually spoke for themselves.  The sorghum plot even attracted the attention of the Ministry of Agriculture in Ganze District.  The Agricultural Officer requested permission to hold an on-farm field demonstration at our sorghum plot this month to show other farmers how successfully sorghum can be grown in the area.

Farmers gather in front of KOMAZA’s sorghum plot to learn about the value of good farming techniques.

The farmers first registered and then received informational handouts along with tasting samples of chapati, doughnuts and porridge made from sorghum.  The farmers proceeded on a walking tour through the sorghum plot.

Visitors assemble between tassles of sorghum in the foreground and a stand of KOMAZA eucalyptus trees in the background.

The conclusion of the field day visit was a speech given by KOMAZA’s Margaret Mulongo.  She stressed the importance of diligence and seriousness if farmers want to take up this project.

Operations Associate, Margaret Mulongo, addresses a crowd of farmers interested in the sorghum project.

Now that KOMAZA has harvested the sorghum, the quantitative results are also in.  On our 2 acre plot, we harvested 835 kilos of sorghum.  However, the half planted with Sanergy fertilizer yielded 100 more kilos than the half planted without.  So the results are not only statistically but economically significant!  That’s ~30% better yields with the Sanergy fertilizer.  Since the retail market price of sorghum is 80 Kenyan shillings per kilo, that’s an 8000 Kenyan shilling boost in income for less than 1000 Kenyan shillings in expenses.

The yuck factor has turned into a wow factor.

 

 

 

 

Bees + trees = Honey = Money

KOMAZA has recently partnered with Honey Care Africa to bring two pilot bee hive sites to Kilifi County.  Installed on August 31st, the two apiary sites feature three hives each.  One site is at a farm near the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and the second is at KOMAZA’s Experimental Farm in Ganze. Honey Care Africa’s Hive Technician, Geoffrey, installed the sites after 2 days of assessment and preparation.

The farmer (middle) helps install the swinging hives from the newly constructed apiary near Arabuko-Sokoke Forest.

Geoffrey will periodically check on the hives during the next 6 months.  The pilot will run for 6 months and test whether bees will colonize the hives and then produce enough honey to make the project profitable.

KOMAZA and Honey Care Africa have been  discussing this potential partnership for awhile.  We believe that KOMAZA’s trees can offer the required foliage to produce high-quality honey.  Now we await the arrival of the bees!

KOMAZA’s Operations Associate, Margaret Mulongo, and Nursery manager, Charles Gitahi, check the hives at the Experimental Farm for colonization.

 

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