NETFUND GIA III NOMINEE PROFILES
WOMEN GROUP CATEGORY
Millennium Mushroom for Life
First Position – Women Group Category
Millennium mushroom for life is a community based organization based in Butsotso East, Kakamega County. The group started as a chamaa (merry go round) in 2002 with 25 men and women. One of the group members who is also a lecturer at Masinde Muliro University introduced the group to mushroom farming as an alternative livelihood source.
The project utilizes bagasse, a waste product from sugar cane mills to produce mushrooms. The bagasse is mixed with supplements to form a substrate that is fit for mushroom production.
Through contribution from group members the project set up the first structure in 2008 and has now expanded the structures to six. The group also received a Kshs 50,000 loan from the Women Enterprise Fund.
Group members are the direct beneficiaries of the project. Through the project members can borrow loans that they refund on set terms. The members also provide alternative nutrition sources to their families from buying mushrooms from the project.
The major challenge faced by the project is the lack of a drying machine to hasten the process. When the weather is cold or raining the mushrooms require a longer period to dry resulting in loses. Mushrooms seeds are also quite expensive and the group would like to be trained on how to make their own seeds so that the project is self-sustaining.
With the help of NETFUND the project would like to buy a solar drier and construct additional structures which will increase their capacity. They would also like to be educated on mushroom seedlings production.
Mrian Ecocultural and Development Resource Center
First Runner’s Up – Women Group Category
Seventeen women came together in 2004 to start a merry go round as a way of providing financial security to their households. The women started table banking where members could borrow money and refund with interest. In 2012 the women felt the need to do more and ventured into fruit tree farming as a way of increasing their income. Batei location in West Pokot is highly conducive for bee keeping and fruit trees like paw paw, apple mango and bananas.
The new activities would not interrupt their day to day chores as farming is still a female affair. The women would then pool their produce and sell it in larger quantities which gave them an advantage over other small scale suppliers. Realizing the importance of working with men in a patriarchal society, the women also integrated some men into their group. The women did not lose dominance of the group however; they are still the main shareholders and beneficiaries of the project.
The increase in numbers also gave the women confidence to approach the Community Development Trust Fund for support through a European Union program. The group used these funds to set up Mrian Eco-cultural and Development Resource Center in 2013 and now acts as a marketing point for the farm produce.
With the increased capacity the women’s area of interest also expanded from their homes to include Mtelo and Sondany ecosystems where the group manages a ten acre piece of land. The group uses this land to promote nature based activities with the added benefit of conserving the surrounding environment. They have managed to supply water to the communities living within these ecosystems with water by first safeguarding five water springs and also used gravity to pump water to a central point where the community can draw from. The group uses this water for drip irrigation within their farm.
Attracted to the available marketing site, other farmers also started selling their produce to the center. From the profits realized from the center, the women receive a 10% commission besides what they receive from selling their produce. The women also benefit from buying seedlings at subsidized rates from the center. For example, the retailing cost of tissue culture banana goes for Kshs 100 but the women buy them for Kshs 20.
One of the milestones that the group is proud of besides opening of the center is getting a contract to supply Honey Care Africa. The women have also become trainers as they get the priority of being trained and receiving implementation before other community members. In this way the women have been empowered to equip others. The women hired a manager who helps in project management and day to day running of the center. Through this exposure the women have received some basic management knowledge.
A major challenge that the group faces is unpredictable weather patterns that affect their plants. The group would like to scale up their project with NETFUND and enhance their marketing skills. They would also like to install proper equipment that will further increase their capacity.
Kikai – Value from the Banana Plant
Second Runner’s Up – Women Group Category
If anything can describe the Kaigoro Star Women Group, it is that they live up to the ‘star’ in their name. The Women group, a shining star in Kaigoro Location - Embu County, comprises 7 young and old women with the youngest being 23 years and the oldest, 78 years. The women who are not only bosom friends but also business partners, appreciate that age is just but a number.
Formed in 2007 with an initial 50 members, the group started as a self-help group to empower women through table banking but has grown into a money making venture. They initially tried several ideas but none were forthcoming. This was very discouraging but their resilience kept them going.
In 2011, some of the group members attended a training hosted by the then Ministry of Agriculture where they were introduced to possible income generating avenues by use of banana through value addition. The group at that time had only 23 members after some had left. Together, they began the journey and started the KIKAI Project. The members contributed Kes. 30,000 to purchase the first set of machinery. In 2012, they submitted a proposal to Smallholder Horticulture Marketing and received support of Kes. 221,000. The women group utilized this funding as seed capital and purchased a miller, weighing machine, an oven and installed a dryer. This investment propelled their production capacity.
The KIKAI Project entails banana value addition to produce highly nutritious; crisps, flour, cakes, and among other products. For the women, no part of a banana goes to waste, even the banana peels are used to enrich the banana flour. The group has a small factory, which is located at the home of one of the members. To enhance efficiency, the women have divided roles with some peeling the bananas, others chopping them into coin sized small pieces for crisps, others drying, frying and packaging them for sale. The same duty allocation process applies to the production of all their products.
The fact that bananas are readily available in the area has helped ensure that the project is sustainable. The women group gets its bananas from the members’ farms and if more is needed, the group buys from neighbouring farms.
The group’s products became an instant hit in the area. They have a wide customer base comprising mainly households (women and children) and retail stores. Their biggest client is a private company – Azuri Health Ltd, which buys 250 kilos of Banana flour every two weeks at Kes. 200 per kilo. This earns the group at least Kes. 50,000 every two weeks. 50% of this is saved, and the rest is divided amongst the group members. However, the group is currently unable to meet the demand for their products due to limited production capacity.
The women group is now thinking of expanding its production capacity by installing two other dryers and purchasing a chipper to ease their work. The group is also seeking funding to facilitate their licencing and certification from relevant government bodies. These reasons motivated them to apply to the NETFUND Green Innovations Award 2016 where they emerged number three in the Women Group Category. They will receive a seed funding of Kes. 250,000 to upscale their initiative.
Kaigoro Star Women Group seeks to continue securing their livelihoods, and that of the community, while providing greater economic opportunities.
CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS CATEGORY
ICOSEED- A Banana Fiber Production
First Position – CSO Category
Kiondo is a traditional hand woven bag made out of sisal and is a dominant product out of Central Kenya. It is made using sisal and leather straps and has gained popularity in Western countries where they are exported. However sisal is fast becoming a scarce commodity which either calls for an alternative or its production.
It is while visiting India that Patrick Gatare realized the banana pseudo stem can substitute sisal. Growing up in Kutus, Kirinyaga County Patrick knew that banana stems were useless once the fruit was harvested. Most farmers use the stems as animal feeds.
Together with six other individuals the group bought a banana fiber extraction machine from India with the hopes of tapping into the potential market. The project started in 2014 and is currently growing the commercial aspect. The group has produced different items that have readily been absorbed into the local and tourist market. The profits from the sales enabling the group to further equip the project.
The main beneficiaries of the project are farmers who sell banana pseudo stems to the initiative. From the sales the farmers are able to buy animal feeds for their animals which lead to increased milk yields and increased incomes. Patrick encourages the farmers he interacts with to plant more bananas as they can now sell both the fruit and stem for income.
The project has employed six people on a permanent basis to operate the extraction machine. There are also young men who the group normally contracts to carry the stems from the farms to the extraction site.
Some of the challenges faced by the project include the lack of capacity to extract more fiber. The group has one extraction machine that cannot produce enough fiber for the market. Twinning is predominantly done by elderly women as young people are not keen on the activity. The group would therefore like to train more youth people to twine as they are faster and will increase production.
Patrick would like to engage more groups at the grass root level; he would also like to work directly with more women in the weaving process so as to increase production levels.
From the application to the NETFUND Incubation/Up scaling program the group hopes to purchase more fiber extractors and build group capacities so that they can work faster. Patrick also hopes to gain local and international exposure from NETFUND so they can easily sell their products.
Jitunze Environmental Group - Cold Trout Fish Farming
First Runner’s Up – CSO Category
Cold trout Fish farming is a unique market driven conservation based enterprise that seeks to fulfill market demand for trout fish that cannot be met by current supply. Jitunze Environmental Group is a youth based initiative based in Kieni East, Nyeri County that was founded in 2008 but commercialized operations in 2011. Robert Wambugu came together with other farmers within his community to address a conflict that was brewing from upstream and downstream farmers within Kieni.
Farmers in Kieni largely rely on small scale irrigation systems drawn from the rivers along their farms. This practice has created conflict from farmers downstream who do not have reliable water quantities as compared to those upstream.
What makes trout tree farming unique is that rather than exploit the river, it reuses and reintroduces water to the river. Trout tree farming requires clear, cold, running and uncontaminated water for it to flourish. For this to happen Jitunze constantly plants trees around the fish farms to regulate temperatures and as a way of preventing pollution. They also scout the river systems from time to time to check against any harmful practices that might deplete water levels.
Jitunze has worked with different stakeholders within Mt. Kenya region including the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to develop a strategy aimed at protecting rivers around the region. Due to the success of trout tree farming the adoption levels within the region is quite high creating the need to mitigate against overcrowding along the rivers.
The Executive Director of Jitunze, Robert Wambugu graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture from Maseno University. He attended a trout tree farming entrepreneurship program in Connecticut University, USA to enhance his knowledge of the practice. As trout farming is still a new sector in Kenya Jitunze mainly relies on the internet for information. The group would like to further research and possibly get training on trout tree breeding.
The group has installed a processing unit but is in the process of equipping it so that they can undertake value addition activities. The challenge faced by the group is the high cost of fish feeds. Unlike other fish varieties, trout is fed on special feeds that cost as much as Kshs 8,000 for 50Kg bag.
The project has impacted the community by training farmers on how to run a trout tree farm. Due to the increased fish pond numbers, employment has also been created around the community.
Jitunze would like to be a part of the NETFUND Incubation program so that it can receive mentorship, recognition which will enhance its network and attract investors who can help upscale their project.
Civil Society Organization – 2nd Runners Up
Upon first interaction with Elisha Odongo, you would be mistaken to think him a very young man. His vibrancy and cheerful approach to his work and life do not portray his 70 years. A retired high school teacher, Elisha now concentrates on a number of agricultural activities to keep him busy and to provide for his family. A small-scale farmer, he specially focuses on livestock farming, rearing eight dairy cows and five goats.
His journey has been of progression. After retiring in 2000, he needed something to keep him active while generating income. Two years later, in 2002, he initiated the Ralide Project. This project brought together a few community members who were all practising small scale livestock farming and agriculture. The project’s aim was to help the members improve their livelihoods through their farming. A couple of years later, they were introduced to World Vision, an NGO in the country that supported them.
In 2006, the group members decided to specialize in dairy goat farming and formed the Nyando District Dairy Goat (NYADDAGO) Farmers Group. They registered the group in 2007 with Elisha being its first chairman.
In 2009, PROLINNOVA Kenya (Promoting Local Innovations, Kenya) toured Nyando, with the aim of promoting local innovations in ecologically oriented agriculture and natural resources management in Kenya. It is then that the idea for LOFODA-G-Meal was born. The area had experience erratic patterns that left the farmer’s distraught. This unpredictable weather patterns brought about the need to have fodder that could be stored to be used especially in dry seasons. There was also a need to reduce the cutting down of fodder trees in order to promote conservation. Elisha, with the help of the group members came up with an innovative way to meet these needs.
LOFODA-G-Meal literally means Locally Formulated Dairy Goat Meal. This is goat meal formulated by use different fodder leaves and the softer part of the fodder tree branches. After being ground to powder form, these leaves and branches are then mixed in recommended portions to have a very nutritious goat meal. The innovation has received a number of recognitions as a good innovation. It has earned showcase opportunities in local and international trade fairs.
One notable one, was in May 2015, when Elisha boarder a plane bound for the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva, his very first passport in hand. His excitement at such an opportunity cannot be described by words. His innovative agricultural practices had finally paid off as he shared platform with different delegates from across the world. He had been invited to participate in an expert consultation on small-scale farmer innovation in biodiverse food systems. Elisha says the meeting aroused the spirit to fast-track the registration and operationalization of a Farmers-led Innovators Association of Kenya. A process he is currently undergoing.
Elisha who believes that small-scale farmers have the ability to significantly contribute to food security in the country hopes to expand the LOFODA-G-Meal to all parts of the country. He hopes to receive support to facilitate the realization of his dream. The group’s current challenge is lack of adequate funds to facilitate the necessary certifications and licensing. The group is also unable to meet the market demand for LOFODA-G-Meal due to limiting production capacity.
Elisha would like to be supported to have the LOFODA-G-Meal undergo the needed testing to be certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards. He would also like to patent his innovation.
Folia Dasimz – Natural Pesticide from Medicinal Trees
First Position – Individual Category
Jeremiah Mutavi Simba describes himself as an environmentalist, and it is easy to see why this is his first choice of adjective. In Mau Hills, which is his home area, he is known as Kenya’s Tree Ambassador. His passion for nature, and all things green is unquestionable. As a young boy growing up in Machakos County, he always felt the need to have trees at his homestead and even in his school. Machakos County is a Semi-Arid Region and the desire to see the area go green heightened. At a young age, he already understood the importance of trees. So he joined the 4K Club - the famous ‘Kuungana, Kufanya, Kusaidia Kenya’ clubs. This became a perfect foundation for him.
In 2000, he cleared his tertiary education and like many young people, started seeking employment opportunities. He got lucky, and was appointed in a leading industry in Athi River. Here, his passion for tree planting continued and he dreamed of establishing a sustainable tree nursery for the company. He started saving for this venture. After about a year, he was able to see his dream come alive. A tree nursery was set up and running at his place of employment. He decided to leave employment and start pursuing his dream further. By 2004, he had established tree nurseries in almost all major industries in Athi River.
In 2005, he founded and registered the Semi-Arid Regions Environmental services (SAREs). Through this body, he began a tree planting program with an ambitious goal of establishing tree nurseries and planting tree seedlings across the whole country, especially in the semi-arid regions. He began this program by collaborating with the then Kitui Municipal Council, who contracted him to plant 100,000 tree seedlings. He decided to utilize the schools in the region to achieve this. The project was successful and it served as the birth of the tree planting in every school project.
However, it wasn’t sustainable. The trees did not all survive. This, he attributes to three main challenges; Lack of adequate water, lack of sufficient knowledge on maintenance of the trees and continuous termite attack on the trees. Being one to not give up, he sought to have solutions to these problems to ensure that his next tree planting initiative had a higher success rate.
To promote water retention, he introduced a polymer which acts as an absorber during rainy seasons and releases the water to the trees through osmosis during the dry season. He also discovered that a certain fertilizer corrected the salinity of the water and would then apply on the soil where the trees would be grown. Lastly, he discovered that use of wood ash on waste soapy water enhanced recycling as the water would be free of the soap particles 8 hours after the wood ash has been applied.
To curb the lack of insufficient knowledge on tree maintenance, he started utilizing local Barazas to train the community and build their capacities. He also received free airtime from a local radio station in the area which he used to further reach a wider audience.
Finally, he was left with one problem. That of termites. He tried all possible ways to eliminate them but nothing seemed to work. All he got were ways that were neither effective nor relatively cheaper. With further research, he identified some specific medicinal trees that never got the termite attack. He then decided to mix the supplements of these trees and shrubs to come up with a concoction to try and eradicate the termites. This was his eureka moment – the birth of the Folia Dasimz. He ingeniously got the second part of the name from his three sons’ names; Daniel, Simba and Musembi.
When he applied this mixture on the trees, he noticed that the termites were moving away from the trees and building up their anthill elsewhere. This was good because he realized that he now had a termite repellent that was not harmful to the soil, flora and fauna and even the termites – who are very good for the ecosystem. He started making the mixture in larger quantities and applying it on trees whenever he planted them. He also started supplying this bio pesticide to other regions where he conducted his tree planting program. This natural bio pesticide can keep a tree termite free for as long as three years.
In 2015, he got a contract from the Ministry of Education to plant trees in all schools in the country. He is currently working with secondary schools in Kilifi County to plant 1M trees. In all the tree planting initiatives, he supplies the Folia Dasimz and the water polymer. He also builds the capacity of the beneficiaries.
Jeremiah Simba applied to the NETFUND Green Innovations Award in 2016 and was nominated for first place in the individual category. This will see him receive Kes. 1,000,000 towards his initiative. He wants to utilize the award money to conduct further research and to seek necessary certifications and licensing to further scale his project.
Hydro – Turbine Water Pump Set
First Runner’s Up – Individual Category
Kericho County, or as is better known, the Tea Capital of Kenya and Africa, is a host to many budding enterprises and industries that are geared towards its economic development. As a County in the highlands, Kericho largely depends on agriculture for its people’s livelihoods and development.
In Waldai location, Belgut, a small scale farmer is changing the lives of the surrounding community, without charging a single shilling! Mr. Andrew Chirchir is a retired Chief Factory Supervisor after working in the industry for over 31 years with his last employment being at Tegat Tea Factory. The father of four, a humble man who describes himself as a “servant of the people”, is the brain and muscle behind the Hydro-Turbine Water Pump Set.
This is an innovative pump set that uses a water turbine to pump water from some Local rivers and streams including Rivers Cheboseron and Kiptule, then distribute the water to the surrounding community. This initiative has seen that at least 150 Households in Keben village have access to clean and safe water. Ten schools have also benefitted in the area. However, due to the replicability of the project, the impact is not limited to Mr. Chirchir’s home area. Through hard work and determination, he has been able to install these water pumps in about 10 other locations across the country, among them Meru and Bomet Counties.
The birth of the innovation started in 1998, when Kericho faced an acute water shortage. The community in the area, including, Mr. Chirchir, suffered adverse effects especially in relation to their agricultural activities. As small scale farmers who were then experimenting with zero grazing with support from a donor funded project, the water scarcity meant they lost all 56 units of zero grazing that had been set up. This was the wakeup call for Mr. Chirchir who then started drawing designs on how to get the scarce water from the rivers and streams to get to their homestead. His friends and family thought it was impossible.
In 2005, through a different donor funded project that focused on horticulture, the need to have adequate water to use for irrigation grew even bigger. Mr. Chirchir retrieved his notebooks and drew some more, changing designs and exploring all possible options of what would work. It is during this period that he discovered that the option of using electricity to pump the water from downstream would be too expensive – costing at least Kes. 15 Million. This was not going to work.
He did not give up. In the same year, he started fabricating machinery that made up a water pump set. He started with using scrap metals to help make the first prototype. To facilitate this production process, he utilized his savings and also got support from friends and family who would contribute as little as Kes. 200. A decade later, and his is a success story. The machinery is now able to pump at least 3,000 Litres per hour. The water is distributed to the different households with many of them storing this water in tanks.
Through the challenges like: inadequate funds to upgrade the machinery, maintenance costs and installation costs, Mr. Chirchir continues to bring positive change in Kericho County and the country at large. He applied to the NETFUND Green Innovations Award Phase III in 2016 and clinched the second position in the individual category.
In addition to technical assistance, he looks forward to building a bigger workshop to house his fabrication process with the support of NETFUND. He also seeks financial support to purchase better machinery and to explore the water bottling industry to generate income for him and his family.
Green Gates Project
Second Runner’s Up – Individual Category
Known as the ‘little Wangari Mathai’ in Sitatunga Ward of Trans Nzoia County, 73 year old Rachel Nyakeri is a passionate environmentalist. Her daughter Caroline Nadwa cannot remember a time when her mother was not conserving the environment. Rachel founded the Green Gates project to conserve 65 acres of land that comprises deep gullies and wetlands within it. The gullies are prone to soil erosion which leads to siltation of the wetlands.
Rachel started with a wetland conservation project ten years ago with the aim of providing safe drinking water to her family and the community who share River Saiwa. She secured water collection points ensuring water for household consumption was not contaminated. She established bench terraces along the gullies and planted indigenous tree species which created a nature trail.
Being a member of Imbako Public Health in which she is an environment director, Rachel embarked on environment conservation awareness within the community. She involved community members in reclamation efforts along the wetlands through reclamation and agro forestry activities where they planted crops like peanuts, yams and tomatoes. She has also worked with different government institutions on the grass root to monitor activities along the wetland and promoted tree cultivation as a result.
Rachel attributes poverty to the tree cover depletion as most community members harvest the trees off their land for selling or use it for fuel. To curb this practice, she encourages and trains the community on nature based farming activities for commercial purposes. She introduced butterfly farming and fish rearing activities to supplement individual income. Within her farm are four fish ponds in which she rears tilapia, cat fish and ornamental fish for sale. She also uses them for demonstration purposes to those who want to start the practice.
Believing that we are all stewards of the environment, Rachel created a park which she calls the ‘Biblical garden’ for its representation of nature. This is a beautiful ecosystem that community members use for recreational purposes and holding meetings.
Rachel provides employment for women and youth who work within her farm. Depending on the nature of the work there can be around 10 to 40 people working with her. She has also partnered with a local NGO that supports albinos to provide employment to the group.
Like any project, this project has also faced challenges largely brought on externally. Ironically, her nurseries are a target for the paper bags from individuals who use them in their own nurseries. She also faces a challenge from those who have not bought into her conservation efforts.
Rachel has had an effect on a community that can now access clean water from conserved wetland areas. Due to exposure to better farm practices community livelihoods have been improved from the alternative livelihood.
Green Gates hopes to receive technical assistance from NETFUND in terms of which trees are appropriate where and how best to manage space when planting trees. The project also hopes that the funding will assist in maintaining the wetland and building terraces as this can be an expensive affair.
SECONDARY SCHOOL CATEGORY
Green Bio-Fuel from Water Hyacinth
First Position – Secondary School
36 year old Richard Arwa was born and raised in Homa Bay County. After completing his secondary school education, he pursued an undergraduate course in Teaching, with a specific focus on Business Education and Science: two things that he has been passionate about ever since he was a young boy. He further specialized in organic chemistry because this had been his interest from secondary school. The now trained teacher currently teaches at Mudhiero Secondary School in Siaya County where he also lives with his family.
It is at Mudhiero Secondary School that he began this project of generating green bio-fuel from water hyacinth. The project which has been in development and refinement for the last two and half years had a breakthrough late last year (2015). The project which initially started as a Science Congress project has become the beacon of success in the locality receiving massive support from the community.
The commencement of this project was triggered by Mr. Arwa’s interest in water hyacinth. Having grown up on the shores of Lake Victoria, witnessing the destruction of the lake by this menace was heart-breaking for him. He felt he needed to act and discover ways in which to gainfully utilize the water hyacinth weed menace. While in College, Mr. Arwa got to carry out fieldwork in Lake Victoria where his interest in finding ways to manage the weed was enhanced. Therefore, when he got employed at Mudhiero Secondary School, he decided to utilize the school’s facilities and his personal resources to experiment with possible ways of utilizing the water hyacinth.
He first started with weaving but this did not prove to be a good venture for him. He still felt that something more could be done. He therefore started exploring other ways, this time he sought to utilize his chemistry background. He started with small experiments and after much research, he settled on generating energy from water hyacinth. He could not work alone and hence, through the school’s Talent Corner, he identified a couple of students with whom he started to experiment the generation of fuel from the weed. They submitted their first prototype for the Science Congress. Their novel idea awed many and so they kept progressing to the next level. Then to the next. Along the way, they received comments on how to better refine the prototype for maximum efficiency.
Mr. Arwa, who is passionate about moulding the young people to be leaders and entrepreneurs, saw a business opportunity through this project. He then toyed with the idea of packaging the fuel for sale. After all, the green bio-fuel was ready for the market. It had demonstrated its efficiency and to further enhance the need, the school and the neighbouring community face challenges in meeting their energy needs. Majority of the residents in the area rely on wood fuel which is not environmentally friendly. Mr. Arwa and his students decided to explore this business opportunity.
They started packaging the bio-fuel in 500ml plastic bottles and selling it at Kes. 100. The project currently has a regular customer base of about 60 women and 12 outside catering businesses. Through this, they generate income which they utilize on the project and some of the proceeds go to Mr. Arwa and the five students he works with. This customer base bears witness the extent to which this green bio-fuel has impacted their lives; women now save the time they would have otherwise utilized in searching for wood fuel. The project’s efforts towards managing the weed menace in Lake Victoria are also very commendable.
The project also identified that the fuel could only work with a specific cook stove and therefore, as part of the project, the team now facilitates the production and sale of these special cook stoves. In a month, they produce about 30 cook stoves.
The Green Bio-Fuel from Water Hyacinth project experiences some challenges. The biggest being lack of a structure that will act as the production plant for the production of the fuel. The project is currently hosted in the school’s laboratory. They also lack adequate machinery to enhance their production capacity to meet the growing demand. These needs drove Mr. Arwa to seek the support of NETFUND through the NETFUND GIA III in 2016. The project was nominated for the first position in the secondary school’s category where it will receive Kes. 1,000,000 and incubation services through the NETFUND Green Incubation Program.
SMALL AND MEDIUM SIZED ENTERPRISES CATEGORY
Gorge Farm Energy Park
First Position – SME Category
“Strong to Serve”. This is the school motto that Christopher Macharia Kamau lived by while he attended the Alliance Boys High School. It set as his foundation for life, shaped his principles and values. After high school, he proceeded to Moi University where he pursued his lifelong dream course of Mechanical Engineering. About a decade later, he works for an independent power producer located in Naivasha, Kenya as an engineer, running a power plant.
The inception or idea behind the power plant project was borne from a chance meeting between the chairman of Biojoule Limited and owners of the farm, on which the energy park is located. There was so much local crop waste that was initially treated as such; just waste. The area is also blessed with too much sun which if well utilized has the ability to generate clean, renewable power. This was an opportunity that Biojoule decided to explore. With initial capital from the shareholders of Biojoule Kenya Limited, the Gorge Farm Energy Park started in 2013. Its construction was completed at the end of 2014 and was officially commission by the Governor of Nakuru County in the last quarter of 2015.
The project seeks to find a sustainable green way of recycling/using farm and Pack house waste to generate electricity and heat with the hope of displacing diesel boilers use in greenhouse heating. It also seeks to produce good quality organic solid and liquid fertilizer from this waste and shift a large portion of chemical fertilizer use in large farms. In producing this fertilizer in an enclosed anaerobic digestion process, the plant also cuts down on time required to otherwise compost this biomass waste by the farm and most importantly reduce emission of methane (greenhouse gas) that is evolved in the long process of composting biomass.
At the beginning of the project, there was need to acquire over 500 tons of cow manure and rumen waste to inoculate the anaerobic digestion process. This particular exercise provided lots of business opportunities to the local cattle owners, transport providers and slaughter houses. The Small and Medium sized Enterprise has to date, employed over 25 permanent Kenyan employees and many other temporary employees.
Currently, the Energy Park comprises of the 2.2MW Biogas Power Plant that generates electricity. Part of the power goes to the Kenyan national grid and the rest goes to an adjacent farm owned by VP Kenya Limited. The other major outputs from the project are: 2 MW of heat for green houses, over 90,000litres of liquid fertilizer per day and 15 tons of solid fertilizer per day when the plant is running at 100% capacity.
The main challenge that the Plant has faced has been inoculation of the process. It took quite a long time since it was the first project of its scale in East Africa. However, the project is now underway. It seeks to explore opportunities to scale the technology down and research into energy crops that will grow in arid areas so that the plant can be replicated in those regions. Christopher, like other employees and management, envision a country that will fully embrace the green and clean energy.
Sweet & Dried Enterprises
First Runner’s Up - SME Category
28 year old Mercy Mwende is an extraordinary young lady. The third year student at the Management University of Africa did not get to where she is effortlessly. As an orphan, Mercy relied on the support of relatives to make it through high school and that was the furthest education they could provide her. The school management of Chogoria Girls High School had been gracious enough to let her sit for her final exams with school fees arrears but was reluctant to release her certificate until three years later when she cleared the balance. Despite her challenging background, Mercy obtained a decent B+ grade thereby earning herself a place at a prestigious public university; but financial constraints could not allow her to move forward. With sheer determination, Mercy adapted to her situation.
Mango is one of the predominant commodities in Tharaka Nithi County, where Mercy hails from. She started making fresh mango juice and selling second hand clothes to earn a living. This business opened Mercy’s eyes to the grave reality of the huge post-harvest losses that farmers experienced especially during the peak of the mango season. She also realized that the plentiful sunlight that characterizes her home area was a natural resource that would come in handy in prolonging the shelf life of farm produce. This included products such as pumpkin, mango, banana, sweet potato and arrow roots by at least one year.
While running her business the then 18-year-old was introduced to Kenya Industrial Estate (KIE), a government institution that champions the development of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). In 2009 Mercy presented her expansion dreams to KIE who advanced her a loan of Kshs 500,000. She used the loan to purchase a milling machine and driers.
Mercy has to date employed eight women who work in her factory. She has also empowered six young people who are given finished products on factory prices and after making sales pay back while retaining a certain amount. Understanding the challenges many young people go through, Mercy believes that she should provide hope to others.
Her other contribution to Igambang’ombe location has also been to empower small holder farmers to sell their produce in terms of weight (Kgs) thereby ensuring a befitting value for their products. This is unlike previous subjective and exploitative methods used by middlemen. Mercy has also empowered them to fortifying flour thus improving nutrition which is also something that Mercy is very proud of. She has educated the women within the community on the value of providing a rich diet to their families.
Her challenge currently is to meet the growing customer demands. They require products in large quantities and yet the finance to expand current capacity presents a challenge. Transporting produce from the collection points to the factory also eats into her profits and she would like to invest in vehicles that can reduce this cost.
Mercy would like to be trained on branding and packaging so that her products can meet international standards. She would also like to benefit from research and development facilities to better enhance her products.
Sustainable Cage Aquaculture
Second Runner’s Up – SME Category
Women who had left their homes because of irresponsible spouses are coming back home in Mfangano Island, Homa Bay County. This is all due to a change in behavior from the young men who work with the Sustainable Cage Aquaculture in Mfangano Island, Homa Bay County.
Started as an individual project by Petronila Mbeo the initiative introduced a new method of fishing to the community. Unlike conventional fish ponds that remove fish from their natural habitat, aquaculture fishing houses fish within their natural environment which also means that fish retains its natural flavor. The practice has been found to be sustainable as fish, tilapia in this case, are grown in cages set out in Lake Victoria.
The project was started as a way of addressing overfishing within the lake. Government calls to fishermen to provide intervals for fish broods to mature so as to ensure sustainability fell on deaf ears. The fishermen went as far as fishing within breeding grounds which also depleted the broods. Mbita Causeway built over 31 years ago has over time impacted the lake’s ecosystem effectively interfering with the free flow of water and fish movement from the main lake. It is hoped that the current demolition of the causeway by the government will restore natural phenomena around the island.
Before introduction of the cages, one would not be assured of a catch due to the challenges stated. Fishing being a male dominated activity also affected the female fish mongers who bought fish from the fishermen. Due to competition, the women resorted to activities like providing sexual favors to the men for an assured fish supply. This promoted HIV and STD transmission in the island. To address this, the project formed integrated groups where young men and women worked together. The women manage the groups while the young men provide the fish ensuring sustained supply.
About 50 women and youth benefit from the project directly. The proud men now approach Petronila for financial help to provide a befitting welcome to their wives who had left them due to financial irresponsibility.
The assured in fish availability from the project has increased member income so that they can better provide for their families. The project has constructed demonstration cages as a way of supporting local fishermen by allowing them to participate in the alternative fishing method. This education is expected to rid crude fishing methods like poisoning that some fishermen resorted to for an assured catch. The project also ensures a protein source to the island.
One of the major challenges that the project faces is the high cost fish feeds. The project is in the process of coming up with a formula to make pellets for their fish and eventually sell to other fish farmers. Petronila, a scientist, believes that when science is linked to societal problems solutions are easily found.
Because fish is a highly perishable commodity the project is in the process of installing an ice maker to prolong the shelf life. The longer fish remains unsold its price also goes down resulting in loses and therefore the ice maker will keep prices constant.
Sustainable Cage Aquaculture would like to be a part of linkages opportunities from NETFUND.