Kilifi County is amongst the 14 out of 47 counties that are marginalized coupled with the hot weather. In 2014, Papu Haroon ventured into Moringa farming to assist the community in Matsangoni to cope with the effects of climate change and address nutrition.
Moringa is one of the most drought tolerant trees and does well in hot weather with minimal water needs. The rate of absorption or assimilation of carbon dioxide by the moringa tree is 20 times higher than any tree. Coupled with the sandy soils in the area which are not fit for agricultural production, moringa has proven to withstand the soils and the hot climatic conditions.
According to Amaglo (2016), If moringa growing was increased from 100,000 hectares worldwide to one million hectares, that would equate to five giga tonnes of CO2 equivalent being sequestered.
Kilifi Moringa Estates (KME) is an organic certified company in the business of growing moringa trees and producing products such as moringa powder, tea, and massage oil from the leaves and seeds. Moringa powder can be used as a food supplement to treat ailments such as diabetes, high blood pressure, skin disorders, indigestion, anaemia and aides in faster healing of wounds. Moringa is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. It contains significant amounts of vitamin A, C, and E; calcium potassium and protein.
Mature seeds yield between 30–40% by weight of edible oil. The seed cake remaining after oil extraction may be used as a fertilizer, animal feed or as a flocculent to purify water.
Currently KME is working with 350 farmers covering a cumulative total of 271.5 acres. KMEs out growers consist of 85% women who are also the main beneficiaries of the plant. On average, each household has over 250 surviving trees on each acre. 2 harvesting seasons in a year.
“Kilifi Moringa contracts women to plant seedlings and pays KSh. 5 for the surviving tree. Upon maturity, KME buys the seeds from them at KSh. 250 per kilogramme,” notes Haroon, adding that each tree has a capacity to produce three kilogrammes of seed.
Kenya Climate Ventures (KCV) which is a subsidiary of Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) has invested $500,000 as seed funding for the expansion and extraction of additional value to increase supply over the long term.
In 2016, KME supplied 400 kilogrammes of oil to the United States of America (USA). In November 2017, they received an order to produce 15.2 tonnes of oil which requires 85,000 tonnes of seeds.
“The funds will go a long way in increasing the acreage of moringa and diversify on the product line,” he noted.
One of the challenges that KME has been facing is the inadequate supply of leaves and seeds to meet their production. In order to upscale, KME has been training and sensitizing more women to grow moringa. The uptake has increased over the last one year.
“From the moringa mud, we want to venture into producing facial masks for the local and international markets. We also intend to venture into energy and water purification using the byproducts of moringa,” emphasized Haroon.
Moringa produces seed cake from pressing the oil which is currently being tested for biogas. The cake contains methane gas. Once the residual oil has been degraded, the byproduct is fertiliser which contains nitrogen and phosphorus for the poor soils.
For sustainability of the soils, 10 years from now Haroon hopes to grow the trees on the same pieces of land by restoring the soils with the organic fertilizer from moringa to boost fertility.
He adds that the company’s biggest risk is the commoditisation effect. Prices will be affected negatively due to competition and supply. KME is trying to work on an out grower program to sustain the supply. Market forces may drive the price down. This is why KME is working towards extracting more value from the raw materials. This will help the company in providing a steady price.
KME is working on having an MOU signed with Pwani University to foster academic research on Moringa. The company plans to turn Kilifi into a Moringa county.
“There is need for the government to support the community by providing the farmers with leguminous seedlings to intercrop with the moringa trees,” added Haroon.
KME is in the process of developing a new product which is a face mask to be released in the market in 2018.