Passion in repairing soils and managing farms
When Francescah Munyi got employed, every time she went visiting her mother in the countryside, she got curious as to why the tomato, carrot, mango plants and citrus fruits trees in her mother’s compound were dying. When she enquired about the poor produce and deteriorating state of the farm, her mother’s response was, “I don’t know what happened to the soil.”
Her curiosity did not end there. By that time, she was working as a banker. Over the years as she worked, she realized that the big bank accounts belonged to farmers, more so 80 per cent belonged to women. Farmers were making more money from agriculture.
She embarked on research to find out exactly what the problem was back home in her mothers farm. After consulting and asking around, she discovered that because of use of extensive use of chemical fertilizers, there was cumulative residual in the soil. She conducted further research for three months trying to find out who was in the business of organic fertilizer. To her surprise, she found out that only one farmer was producing the organic fertilizer in Kitale.
“From there I got a bank loan of KSh80,000 and embarked on repairing soils starting with my mother’s farm,” says Francescah, adding that 90 per cent of Kenyan soil is in need of a soil amendment programme. The soil amendment programme basically involves cleaning the chemical residue in the soil as a result of continuous use of chemical fertilizers and repairing the damaged soil using organic and natural inputs. Research done indicates that in most parts of the country, production has reduced from 60 bags per acre to 15 bags due to damaged soils.
In 2009, during a meeting organized by the Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN), she shared her predicament with David Morris of Global Merit Group who supplies inputs for the manufacture of fertilizer. This later turned into a partnership together with Dr Knauf and Dr Donald E. Mischnik of AgPro Systems Limited as the technical experts in the project. The team got two additional members namely J.K Nzuva and and Joseph Muiruri who are agronomists.
Kenya Organic Finest Aromas Limited (KOFAr) was founded the same year as a social enterprise company dealing with a soil amendment programme using organic and natural farm inputs in Kenya. Francescah notes that one of their major challenge is that soil repair is a new thing therefore selling the concept has been a challenge.
In conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture, KOFAr works hand in hand with Kirinyaga County to repair the soil. Muranga, Nyeri and Meru are on the road to repair. Apart from soil amendment, the company also offers farm/soil analyses to determine the best suitable crop to be grown in specific area, farm planning, crop programmes, soil conservation services, seasonal crop supervision and farmer’s trainings on profitable farming.
Kofar currently manages farms for those interested in agriculture but do not want direct involvement. She has a workforce of more than 140 casual workers and has 12 farms managed by her company. The farms grow avocado, tissue culture bananas, sweet bananas, pawpaw’s and sweet potatoes. With local and international consultants together with soil biologists, they have and continue to change the face of farms in the county and beyond.
Not many farmers understand what exactly goes into the concept therefore the uptake has been slow. She hopes that she can get more people on board as partners in order to open up networks that can buy the concept to generate income. Plans are currently underway to set up an organic fertilizer factory this year. Next month she will be hosting a one day training to educate farmers, farmers to be and people working with farmers directly or indirectly on soil amendment and profitable farming.