I am working at KOMAZA this summer with support from the Brown Starr Fellowship in social entrepreneurship. I’m joined by another Starr Fellow, Danielle Dahan. At Brown (where KOMAZA’s founder got his start), I study geoscience and biology. I came to KOMAZA to learn about the implications of my study on agriculture and about the organization as a whole.
On our first trip to KOMAZA’s experimental farm in Ganze, Danielle and I took a matatu (minibus). Although the roads were unpaved and scattered with potholes, the view of the landscape was beautiful. The lush green hills and crops may have been a poor representation of the generally dry and desert-like area, but the view allowed us to take some amazing photographs, which hardly did it justice.
As we rode toward Ganze, I also noticed changes in soil composition visible from the road. Further from Ganze town, the soil was clay and iron-rich and likely had relatively high water content. As we got closer, the soil lost its red tint and grew more tan and sandy.
When we arrived at Ganze, we jumped on some piki pikis (motorcycles) and rode to the X-farm, where we were greeted by a few of the staff who were planting and building new structures for the nurseries. David, one of our colleagues, gave us a tour around the X-farm. It was interesting to see the variations in the different types of eucalyptus trees, some with thick trunks, some with so many branches they looked almost like shrubs.
We also looked at the test crops, jatropha, cowpeas, green grams, and groundnut crops and the role they play on KOMAZA farms. Walking the distance of the X-farm, we noted the huge variation in soil color, texture and likely composition from one area to another. One explanation we discussed is the variation in rain distribution due to topographical changes, but it was interesting to see the drastic changes from one location to another.
After our tour, we talked to Etemesi, the X-Farm Manager, who confirmed that all the crops on the farm are healthy and growing well. He gave us an introduction to what he does on the shambas (farms) and talked about the construction that is going on. We told him that we wanted to look at the rainwater harvester, so he sent us with Mbao to take a look at the harvester on his shamba.
Actually seeing that harvester that we have been reading about was helpful to get a better understanding of scale and its degree of functionality. Ngumbao told us that it was meant to provide water for four shambas, but because of the cracks in the cement, it can only hold enough for one. He seemed excited to hear that our project will include work on new solutions for harvesting rain to irrigate crops.
Lastly, we looked at the compost holes. There wasn’t too much to see except some rotting food and shrubs, but it was useful to see the scale of the composters in relation to the scale of the farm.
Overall, the trip to the X-farm was a great opportunity to get a better understanding of what the work at the KOMAZA office is aimed toward, and specifically for Danielle and me, to see the importance of water on the farms. It was really impressive to see how well maintained the crops on the X-farm were, and although we did not see many other shambas on this visit, we hope to return again during our time at KOMAZA.