Conserving the environment through croton seeds
Eco fuels Kenya Limited was started in 2012 with the aim of empowering farmers through the collection of croton nuts. Initially, the community living amongst dense areas of Croton Megalocarpus trees in the forests surrounding Mt. Kenya would cut trees for charcoal. The company then stepped in to mitigate the deforestation.
Eco Fuels Kenya is a for-profit social enterprise producing biofuel, soil conditioning organic fertilisers, and plant health products from the nuts and seeds of the Croton Megalocarpus, a naturally abundant plant in East Africa with no other productive or commercial use. The company got into intensive campaigns, sensitizing the community and farmers on the importance of protecting the environment. A trusted Seed Collectors Network of about 1500 members from the rural community was formed.
The farmers collect the croton seeds on behalf of Eco Fuels. They gather the seeds that have fallen from the branches and have attained maturing. The collectors then deliver them to designated collection centres that Eco Fuels has set up. At the centre, the seeds are weighed and the collectors are paid using the mobile money transfer system M-pesa. Through this the members are able to generate additional income for their families beside their other farming activities.
The croton nut is used to make croton nut oil which is an alternative to diesel fuel. It is used to power engines, generators and water pumps. After the seed is crushed, The seed cake is used to manufacture organic fertilizer. The biofuel and fertiliser products are 100 per cent organic with no chemical additives. Due to continuous use of chemical fertilizers and other toxic additives, the soils become damaged. The fertilizer helps to repair and condition the soils by restoring and maintaining soils in optimum condition by adding fibre, protein, nutrients and minerals.
This ensures that the the soil pH level is stabilized thus ensuring that plant growth is optimized and crop yields are improved. The organic fertilizer also contains natural pest-repellent components that deter many insects and reduce the level of pathogens in the soil while encouraging good organisms to thrive. Eco Fuels works with partners with companies such as Osho Chemical Industries, East Africa Organic (Kilimo Hai) Chase Bank and the Growth Hub.
The director of operations Cosmas Ochieng says that Africa Agribusiness Academy has been very instrumental in their business. Through interacting with members in one of the forums organised by AAA, he was able to get links to the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS). He notes that in the beginning they had challenges in getting certification but after the forum, he was successful. Cosmas was able to do business with one of the members who passed on two years back. He acknowledges that the late member was instrumental in linking him to other farmers/collectors in Meru County.
Through the interactions with other AAA members, the company has been able to benefit from new business ideas. He hopes to meet other potential buyers through the network to push their products, especially to farmers. Cosmas wants AAA to facilitate more trainings in business plan writing. Eco Fuels Kenya has been able to access financial grants through the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF). In future, they anticipate to partner with others farmers and organisations to help them identify products in others areas.