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eAlert
 
A publication of the Kenya Climate Innovation Center 
Issue 54 | Fri, 12 Aug 2016
Samuel Rigu, CEO Safi Organics,
Photo credit: Charles Wanyoro/Nation Media
Agricultural waste is the new gold mine in Mwea

Farmers in Kenya are faced with high cost of imported fertilizers which over time have also led to degraded soils with increased acidity. In Kenya, fertilizer is available to farmers in the open market, at a cost of Kshs 3,000 a bag, but the government fertilizer has been subsidized to Kshs 1, 800 per bag of planting fertilizer and Kshs 1, 500 per bag of top dressing fertilizer. However, some of the fertilizer subsidized by the government meant to cushion farmers from high costs of production ends up in wrong hands to cartels that divert it to the open market.
 
Safi Organic a company supported by Kenya Climate Innovation Center is solving this problem for farmers by introducing the fortified biochar fertilizer. The company is committed to developing a low-cost alternative to break smallholder farmers’ current dependency on expensive imported chemical fertilizers, which make the soil acidic in the long run. Biochar is defined simply as charcoal that is used for agricultural purposes. It is created using a pyrolysis process, heating biomass in a low oxygen environment.
 
Safi organics has pitched tent in Mwea and will be using rice husks to make the fertilizer. During harvest time many farmers dispose of millions of tons of agricultural waste such as rice husks and maize stocks through open-air burning, which creates toxic pollutants.
 
For many years, farmers in Mwea had to contend with disposal of massive rice husks and stalks after harvesting their crop. But the waste product is slowly turning into some gold mine. Some creative entrepreneurs have discovered this waste can serve as affordable and fortified fertilizer. Previously, the stalks were burned to ashes within the rice paddies immediately after the harvesting season.

Safi Organics are converting this waste into affordable high quality biochar using efficient low cost biochar converters. They further fortify this biochar using their special enhancement formula to ensure balanced nutrient availability to crops. The company started with an estimated production capacity of 5 tonnes per month and by the end of the year will have a capacity of 25 tonnes per month.
 
According to the Samuel Rigu, Chief Executive Officer, Safi Organics Ltd, biochar has many agricultural benefits. It increases crop yields, sometimes substantially if the soil is in poor condition. It helps to prevent fertilizer runoff and leeching, allowing the use of less fertilizers and diminishing agricultural pollution to the surrounding environment. And it retains moisture, helping plants cope through periods of drought. Most importantly, it replenishes exhausted or marginal soils with organic carbon and fosters the growth of soil microbes essential for nutrient absorption.
 
Mr Wanderi added that biochar made from agricultural organic and agricultural waste retains a significant amount of nutrients from its source. Because biochar attracts and holds soil nutrients, it reduces fertilizer requirements something common organic matter cannot do. As a result, fertilization costs are minimized and fertilizer both organic or chemical is retained in the soil for far longer. Chemical fertilizers are typically fossil-fuel based, thus biochar provides additional indirect climate change benefits by reducing fertilizer needs.
 
Retailing at Kshs. 1500 the biochar fortified fertilizer is even cheaper than government subsidized fertilizer and other options available in the open market. However, it has more benefits than the chemical fertilizer.  When added to the soil, biochar improves plant growth and enhances crop yields, increasing food production and sustainability in areas with depleted soils, limited organic resources, insufficient water and/or access to agrochemical fertilizers. Not all soils react the same to biochar and it frequently can take up to a year to see results. On poor soils with low carbon content, many studies have shown biochar can increase crop yields up to four times.
 
By Ernest Chitechi
 
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Traction, a start-up's guide to getting customers
All start-ups have a product - whether failed, on the brink of failure or successful. What failed start-ups don’t have is traction – real customer growth. But there is hope, hope in the form of a book called Traction: a start-up’s guide to getting customers. The book introduces start-up founders and employees to the ‘Bullseye Framework’, that has five steps; brainstorm, rank, prioritize, test, focus on what works.
 
The main goal of the ‘Bullseye Framework’ is to identify the optimal distribution channel. But to get there, you may have to try several channels until you get one that works. However, do not focus so much on traction at the expense of product development. The two should go hand-in-hand. In fact there is a rule, spend 50% of your time on product and 50% on traction.
 
A lot of start-up success hinges on having a product that solves a problem for people and choosing a great market at the right time. So check out the book to get useful insights on the entire process.
 

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The Lean start-up
Closely tied to the Traction idea, is the concept of lean start-up that has its origins in the famous Silicon Valley. Possibly you have heard about it, but if not, you need to read the book and other numerous resources out there. It provides a new way of doing business, that takes into consideration the many challenges that start-ups face. At the core of the lean start-up is the notion that start-ups operate in conditions of extreme uncertainty, and its only wise to do rapid practical experiments to reduce the uncertainty before pumping all your resources into the business.  
 
If you have ever thought of starting a business but the thought of capital has stopped you, grab this book because it tells you its okay to start small, and then learn along the way. Getting a basic product prototype and going out there to your potential customers to find out if that product really meets their needs. That way, you are able to learn early on what characteristics your product must have for it to meet a felt need, rather than the perceived need you had in mind when starting the business. You also get to know whether a market really exists for your solution or not.
 
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FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

Global Start-up Business Plan Competition

Entrepreneurs are invited to submit their new business ideas for a chance to win great rewards: the top three winners will receive increased visibility, counselling needed to make their idea into a reality, cash prizes and attending the awarding ceremony during the UNIDO 50th anniversary celebrations in Vienna.

The Global Start-up Business Plan Competition (GSBPC) aims to stimulate and unleash the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation among aspiring and existing entrepreneurs with ideas that contribute to their personal economic benefit and towards developing their communities. Read more 

Startup Battle 2016
If you think you could be the next big thing, then this is an unmissable opportunity to get in front of an active investor base from varying sectors. The top 5 finalists will pitch to the investors live at Fast Forward Your Business in London on 10th & 11th September. It’s a great opportunity for entrepreneurs who are ready to make their pitch and looking to attract investment and Startup Battle, is also a fantastic spectator event. Read more
IN OTHER NEWS

U.S.$81 Billion Mobilized in 2015 to Tackle Climate Change 
Climate finance totalling US $81 billion was mobilized for projects funded by the world's six largest multilateral development banks (MDBs) in 2015. This included $25 billion of MDBs' direct climate finance, combined with a further $56 billion from other investors.
 
The report covers the 2015 year and shows that MDBs delivered over $20 billion for mitigation activities and $5 billion for adaptation. Read more  

100 Million More People Will Be In Poverty By 2030 Without Action On Climate
“Climate change hits the poorest the hardest, and our challenge now is to protect tens of millions of people from falling into extreme poverty because of a changing climate,” said World Bank President Dr Jing Yong Kim in a recent report on ‘Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty.' 

According to modeling analyzed by the study, climate change could cause global crop losses of as much as 5 percent by 2030 and 30 percent by 2080. Read more 
 
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Copyright © 2016 Kenya Climate Innovation Center, All rights reserved.
http://www.kenyacic.org/

      
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